In just two years, The Time has evolved from able Prince clones to one of the most entertaining funk bands in the land. At a homecoming weekend show at Howard University Saturday, this Minneapolis sextet's sound was more compelling and more focused than that on their two albums. By emphasizing synthesizers far more than most soul bands, The Time has brought funk forward into the computer age. While swirling synthesizers soared above a contagious dance groove that anchored the bottom, Morris Day's solid soul singing and Jessie Johnson's flashy guitar solos sparked the middle of the mix.
Day, strutting in a gold dinner jacket, used theatrical schtick to reinforce the band's lyrical self-portrait as slick playboys. Day kept checking his hair in an ornate mirror brought out by a roadie; he pulled a woman from the crowd for a bottle of champagne at a cafe' table on stage. Fortunately, Day exaggerated his "cool" image enough to add a touch of self-parody. A charismatic performer, he got the student audience to participate enthusiastically in the call-and-response routines on The Time's biggest hits: "Cool" and "777-9311."
Vanity 6, afemale vocal trio from Minneapolis, opened the show with a short four-song set. Clad only in frilly lingerie, the three women tried to compensate for their lack of vocal talent with bawdy lyrics and burlesque choreography. The unidentified backing band wore fake beards and wigs and sounded a lot like The Time.