Photos of Morris Day and Prince together over the years flashed across the video screen above the stage at Starlight Theatre as a medley of Prince songs played over the PA, culminating with the video for “Purple Rain.”
Although Kool & the Gang were the headliners of the Keepin’ the Funk Alive tour on Saturday night and had the deepest catalog of hits, Day’s inclusion on the bill and his friend’s unexpected passing last spring generated the biggest crowd of the evening.
Backed by a five-piece band and his ever-present sidekick Jerome Benton, Day revived the Minneapolis sound Prince and the Time made famous in the early ’80s. The 45-minute set moved briskly but allowed Day to show off all his signature dance steps and stage moves made famous in the “Purple Rain” film.
The Time was the only band of the night not to feature a horn section. Most of its songs were wrapped in icy synthesizers, not that it stopped the crowd from spelling out the title to “Cool” during the chorus or dancing to “Jungle Love” and “The Bird.” During that song, Day invited fans onstage to join his choreography. “The Walk” featured a bit of Prince’s “D.M.S.R.”
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Kool & the Gang picked up where the Time left off, in the 1980s, with “Fresh.” Their hourlong set included a mashup that ranged from their debut singles back in 1969 to a well-received new song, “Sexy.” The 11-piece band, including four founding members, took its time working into most songs. The iconic “Jungle Boogie” featured dueling trumpet solos, while “Ladies Night” made room for a bass solo during the introduction.
The band pared down to six members for the classic “Summer Madness,” which culminated in epic guitar and keyboard solos. “Celebration” may be overworked by wedding DJs and event planners, but it can make lots of people dance and smile. Although the crowd had thinned a little — at its peak Starlight was more than three-quarters full — all those who stayed were on their feet, bouncing and singing along.
Bootsy Collins started onstage wearing a glittering, gold tuxedo and top hat and ended up in a Royals jersey standing in the crowd. During the 55 minutes between, Collins and his dozen-strong Rubber Band delivered a medley/jam of songs from his solo career and as part of George Clinton’s Parliament-Funkadelic collective.
Although the sun was still out for most of the set — and fans were still finding their seats when he started — the crowd didn’t need much coaxing to join in singing “Dr. Funkenstein,” “Mothership Connection” or “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker).”
The centerpiece of the set was a drawn-out version of “I’d Rather Be With You.” Collins married his slow jam to Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You.” The timeless “Flashlight” followed, dedicated to P-Funk’s late keyboard wizard Bernie Worrell.
Morris Day and the Time: Get It Up; Cool; Wild and Loose; medley (including Fishnet, Oak Tree, 777-9311); Gigolos Get Lonely Too; The Walk/D.M.S.R.; The Bird; Jungle Love.
Kool & the Gang: Fresh; Too Hot; Hollywood Swinging; Jungle Boogie; Kool & the Gang; Let the Music Take Your Mind; Summer Madness; Sexy; Ladies Night; Get Down On It; drum solo; Celebration.