Saturday Night: George Clinton & the P-Funk All-Stars at House of Blues
Photos by Jim Bricker
George Clinton & the P-Funk All-Stars House of Blues May 4, 2013
George Clinton has strong ties to the city of Houston, which has been evident with the bounty of shows he's thrown our way over the past several years. It was only a matter of time before he brought his circus back to House of Blues, and Saturday Clinton and his band -- Parliament, Funkadelic, P-Funk, the Parliaments or whatever they're called these days -- started early and played late, satiating any and every paying customer's fix for the funk.
One thing that P-Funk (which is what I'm going to call them for this article) always does is bring the funk until they either get kicked offstage by the venue or simply run out of material. One thing they absolutely never do is start their show on time. With what's been described as a "hazy" backstage at a P-Funk show, it's no wonder they always take forever to come onstage.
That wasn't the case Saturday night, though, with the 9 p.m. start time finding all umpteen members of Clinton's troupe slowly parading their way into their positions behind either an instrument or one of the bevy of mike stands that crowded the right side of the stage. I guess there's a first time for everything.
With Clinton nowhere in sight, the band started into a slow, slinky version of the Funkadelic classic "One Nation Under a Groove," with one of the male backup singers taking the lead. Dude had chops, but everyone just couldn't wait until Dr. Funkenstein made his way to center stage.
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The band jammed, or warmed up rather, for a good 25 minutes. There was a ton of solid playing, including a bass solo that seemed to go on forever, but finally Clinton made his way to the stage for "Flashlight," immediately waking back up a crowd that was kind of losing it so early on.
You might be wondering, after looking at the photos you've assuredly seen by now, what happened to the colorful dreads that were Clinton's signature coif for decades, or even his complete change of attire from the muumuus of years past to the snazzy Sunday-best that he was sporting Saturday night. I was as lost as you are.
After reading an interview he did recently, I found out that he's trying to bring his look back to the early days when he was singing doo-wop with the Parliaments; all I can say is that old boy looked slick.
What wasn't missing was Clinton's enthusiasm. Every other P-Funk show I've seen, he's taken much less of a role, especially when it comes to the vocal department, serving more as a hype man rather than a top-billed lead vocalist. This show was quite a bit different.
While Clinton still took several breaks throughout the show, he sang tenfold more than any other performance I've witnessed in years past. He never left the stage, and even had a chair parked in the middle for him to take a load off during the extended instrumentals or whenever one of the ten other vocalists were having his or her way with the mike.
If you've never experienced a P-Funk show, from front to back it (sort of) tells a story through the music and all the stage antics. While I had more of a musical experience with this show, which featured older and deeper cuts than usual, the usual craziness was still there. The male stripper (aka Sir Nose) who contorted himself about the stage with his "Fuck George" Pinocchio-like nose, white-fur chaps and chiseled chest was a sight to see, but what really shined during the show was the host of talented singers Clinton had on hand.
The great thing about a P-Funk show is that you're never just focused on one thing. It's actually almost impossible. At any given point in the show, someone completely different is taking the spotlight -- whether it be one of Clinton's own children or one of the many other singers and band members, someone who's really good at what they do are constantly entertaining the crowd.
At times in the show, so many people were onstage that you couldn't tell whether they were a band member or just a random friend, fan or family member who decided he or she wanted wanted to be part of the party. One guy even came up onstage, danced like no one was watching for a few minutes, then climbed back down to his spot in the crowd without Clinton or any of his cohorts batting an eye.
The show went for quite a while, without a single break and included seemingly all the hits like the set-closing "Atomic Dog." Two and a half hours in, Clinton was off the stage after waving goodbye, but the band started playing a loose version of "Red Hot Mama," making everyone wonder if they'd ever finish. They did after a bit longer, but it didn't really seem as if they wanted to.
It's always great to see a living legend up close and personal, so anytime George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic come to town, I'll be the first in line to buy tickets. Unfortunately, I'll never be able to transport myself back to the dark and dingy nightclubs of the '70s, where Clinton, Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell, Maceo Parker, Fred Wesley and the rest of those original All-Stars were first cutting a rug together.
Rumor has it, though, that a true P-Funk reunion -- with all the aforementioned players -- is in the works for some time in the near future. Man, I truly hope that's not just a rumor.
Personal Bias: My basis for my love of music is jam, funk, rock and soul, and P-Funk are the best of all four wrapped up all into one band.
The Crowd: A lot smaller than expected for a Saturday-night House of Blues show.
Overheard In the Crowd: Literally nothing. The funk was so loud that I couldn't hear a damn thing.
Random Notebook Dump: I thought George Clinton was sober now. Apparently he didn't get the memo about the sticky-icky. That was a huge joint he just got from someone in the crowd.
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