Well over two thousand funk fans packed the Tinley Park Convention Center for the spring installment of Narski Music’s “It’s A Party With A Purpose,” which continues to grow in stature with each passing season. Besides reuniting longtime Prince tour mates Morris Day & The Time and Zapp, alongside an opening stand-up set from Tommy Davidson, the nearly four hour evening once again benefited the Narski Family Foundation (which assists senior citizens with prescription medication costs, promotes music education and serves other needs in Chicagoland communities).
And yes, even at 57, Morris looked and sounded pretty much the same- “oh-wee-oh-wee-oh” indeed!
Star of studio, stage and screen Morris Day & The Time topped off the night with a pop, soul and dance cocktail that was around long before Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars were riding “Uptown Funk” to the top of today’s charts. Just take a listen to “Jungle Love” or practically anything else from the group’s four history-making albums that basically dominated the airwaves throughout all of the 1980s into the ’90s.
After opening with a video montage of classic video and movie clips, the “Purple Rain”/”Graffiti Bridge” alum (with both original and newer members) delivered the meaty beats of “Cool” and “Get It Up” through the smooth balladry of “Gigolos Get Lonely Too” and all the major singles in between. As much as the music, the front man’s over the top personality was a major player in the show with Day and his valet Jerome Benton retaining all their classic mirror holding/hair combing scenes. (And yes, even at 57, Morris looks and sounds pretty much the same- “oh-wee-oh-wee-oh” indeed!)
To those in the know, bill mates Zapp were just as vital to funk and future hip-hop culture throughout the same time frame, but have unfathomably fallen a bit under the radar for anyone who hasn’t kept close tabs in the interim. Nonetheless, the current line-up of first and second generation players demonstrated remarkable resiliency- now 16 years after the loss of two Troutman family band members on the very same day- and locally speaking, picked right up where last fall’s appearance with Cameo left off.
“I Can Make You Dance” was an early example of the group’s distinctive grooves, while “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” may as well have been an original given its ingenious adaptation to the talk box (decades prior to Kanye West giving it a whirl with Daft Punk). The costume changing/instrument switching/back-flipping set also was notable for the ballad blend of departed front man Roger’s “I Want To Be Your Man” with Sam Smith’s similarly paced “Stay With Me,” while the endlessly sampled “More Bounce To The Ounce” reminded those gathered how it all started prior to the superstar likes of Snoop Dogg, The Notorious B.I.G. and countless others keeping the ball rolling.
Speaking of younger appeal, Zapp closed out the endlessly entertaining set with “California Love” (a latter era collaboration with 2Pac and Dr. Dre), which further wet the appetite for a long awaited batch of new material the guys assured concertgoers they are in the midst of recording. And prior to the musical portion of program, Davidson revived his irreverent, impersonation-ripe brand of comedy from “In Living Color,” tackling politics, violence, song lyrics and much miscellaneous with refreshing candor and razor sharp wit, kickstarting the memorable night with loads of laughs.