The Time

"Is anybody hot?"

"No!"

"You know why?"

"Because we’re cool!"

That they are. That they are.

Specifically, that brand of cool where you face the audience in your suit and fedora. One hand’s in your pocket and the other on the keyboard of your analog synthesizer, firing off the funky fills while marking the beat with that slightest bend of the knees, in perfect unison with the other six guys onstage.

With the reunited lineup of The Time at the Flamingo Las Vegas, you won’t feel that wisp of sadness for lost youth that often comes with nostalgia acts. You won’t say, "They’re doing OK for their age."

It makes sense if you think about it. In the early 1980s, Morris Day’s funk-rock outfit was made up of young guys preserving vintage Harlem fashion, the call-and-response rituals of the Apollo Theater and classic soul tradition. Now, 18 years since their last shows together, they’ve grown into those ascots and fedoras.

Day, 50, and sidekick Jerome Benton, 45, are still able to egg beat the stage with all manner of footwork — setting the bar high for any mythological return of Michael Jackson — and providing the showmanship that’s once again backed up by people who play real instruments, not computers.

The group came to life in the early 1980s as essentially a Prince side project and rode the "Purple Rain" movie to its initial peak. Even before the movie, some of the original players were moving out of Prince’s shadow. Keyboardist Jimmy Jam and bassist Terry Lewis became superstar producers. Drummer Jellybean Johnson also moved behind the boards, co-producing Janet Jackson’s hit song "Black Cat." Guitarist Jesse Johnson went solo.

Day, Benton and keyboardist Monte Moir kept The Time’s legacy alive in clubs and suburban casinos, after a brief reunion of the full band in 1990. Now they’re all doing these Flamingo shows while recording a new studio album.

All these years later, it’s still evident Prince saved most of the best songs for himself. The extended funk jams might be a dubious call for an old-fashioned casino showroom where most people have to stay seated, if not for The Time’s expert showmanship. They seem to know just when and where to prop up a songbook that has few certified highlights.

Day and Benton’s campy nods to vintage James Brown still get laughs: When Day summons his mirror and comb, Benton hauls out one in an oversized picture frame.

Only now, the show doesn’t stop for the comic rituals. Johnson (loudly above the rest of the band mix) keeps on flailing away at his guitar jams, pulling from Jimi Hendrix, Prince and Funkadelic in wild contrast to the comic shenanigans.

About halfway through the old act, Jam pauses the action to update the audience on the group’s history, and barely clad singer Heidi Marie comes out for surprise covers of "Black Cat" and "What Have You Done For Me Lately."

Likewise, dancers from "X Burlesque" are recruited for a preview of one of the new songs, "See-Through."

Benton works the crowd to pull female recruits to the stage for a booty-shaking showdown (on this night, civilians stood alongside choreographer Toni Basil and dancers from the Bette Midler show) during the homestretch. But by then, the stronger, Prince-penned tunes such as "Ice Cream Castles" are already in play.

"Gigolos Get Lonely Too" is the rare moment when attention shifts to Day’s singing before the dance party continues with "The Bird" and "Jungle Love" — "We can’t do more," Benton protests hollowly before the latter.

The Time plays today and Saturday, then returns July 31. A midweek audience early in this first run was heavy on locals, many of them courtesy of two Las Vegas ticketing Web sites. This raises questions of whether the band is still so fondly remembered that a $165 top ticket in a recession summer can bring enough Stacy Adams footwear through the door.

But if you are of a certain era and fan enough for the reunion to resonate, there’s only one answer. And it’s another question:

"What time is it?"

Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at mweatherford@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0288.

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