Christmas came early for funk and R&B fanatics when the 106.3 Holiday Jam brought together Morris Day & The Time, El DeBarge and Atlantic Starr at the Las Vegas-like Venue At Horseshoe Casino. For headliners The Time, it also meant a chance to celebrate the monumental legacy of longtime collaborator Prince, whose pictures frequently flashed on the screen during the retrospective-themed introduction.
However, it was the finale “Jungle Love” that took everyone on the night’s most joyous journey into the funky wilderness, which despite being more than 30 years old at this point, could very well compete with the many throwback-influenced sounds of today.
When Morris and company appeared in person to the beats of The Purple One’s “1999,” it was obvious his “Purple Rain” co-stars stepped up their game considerably, offering all the famous chorography and imagery from the movie and many music videos, alongside some sizzling sounds that Bruno Mars, Justin Timberlake and several others owe a serious debt of gratitude. Whether they came from group or solo albums, cuts such as “Cool,” “Wild And Loose,” “Fishnet,” “The Oak Tree” and “Jerk Out” found the longtime leader, fellow fixtures Monte Moir (keyboards), Jellybean Johnson (drums) and Jerome Benton (percussion/mirror man), plus the other current players locked firmly into each groove.
Out of the few slow jams, “Gigolos Get Lonely Too” was a simmering standout, while a little later, the more accelerated “The Bird” had everyone flapping their arms in carefree flight. However, it was the finale “Jungle Love” that took everyone on the night’s most joyous journey into the funky wilderness, which despite being more than 30 years old at this point, could very well compete with the many throwback-influenced sounds of today.
Middle man El DeBarge also earned substantial traction throughout the ‘80s and early ‘90s before bowing out of the limelight until a completely clean and sober comeback in the 2010s. And once the extremely meticulous singer/songwriter/keyboard player got the mix in his monitors just right on this particular evening, he had the ladies swooning with the falsetto-centered soul of “Time Will Reveal” and “I Like It” before meeting an adoring crowd during “Rhythm Of The Night.”
Openers Atlantic Starr made a long-awaited return to the area anchored by co-founders Wayne and Jonathan Lewis (now that their brother and original vocalist David Lewis embarked on a gospel career with his wife Marian). Along with present co-singers L’John Epps, Melessa Pierce and their supporting cast, the group shined on the upbeat opener “Circles” and addressed a handful of key romantic ballads (“Secret Lovers,” “Send For Me,” “Always”) before promising a brand new album called “Metamorphosis” is on its way.
Upcoming concert and event highlights at The Venue At Horseshoe Casino include the Gladiator Fitness Expo (Jan. 14); Dr. Oz & Friends (Jan. 15); The Whispers with The Temptations Review featuring Dennis Edwards (Feb. 11); Thunder From Down Under (Feb. 25) and Gladys Knight with Jeffrey Osborne (Mar. 17). For additional details, visit TheVenueChicago.com and Ticketmaster.com.