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George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic, Dallas House of Blues, Friday, May 3rd, 2013

George Clinton didn’t invent funk, but in the 1970s he perfected and expanded the genre. Through his two different acts, he incorporated elements of science fiction, hard rock, soul, pre-rap rap, the drug culture, as well as cartoon characters, bizarre costumes, stage theatrics, and an endless foundation of heavy on “the one” funk, into one of the most recognizable and joyous cultural phenomenons in the history of popular music. As a bonus feature, he looked weird doing it.

 

George is no longer the young, strapping revolutionary of the disco era. Eschewing the rainbow dreads of the past, Dr. Funkenstein looked positively conservative stuffed in a double-breasted grey suit and dark hat. The post atomic, seventy-one year old canine can bark out a tune, but he can no longer effectively lead a vocal. That’s where having 20 of your best friends and relatives on-stage is an asset. The 2013 edition of Parliament/Funkadelic doesn’t have the elaborate stage production of the Mothership era, but is still a glorious celebration of excess. Equal parts circus, tent soul revival, and pot party, the P-Funk troop sang, rapped, tossed out James Brown grunts, and even performed an extended scat song to an appreciative multi-ethnic and multi-generational audience. However, at its worst, it can seem like a Spinal Tap “let’s turn it up to 11” affair, with half a dozen background singers, three guitarists, two keyboardists, horns, and the rhythm section battling it out for attention.

The evening started with guitarist Ricky Rouse performing some exhilarating post Hendrix acid drenched guitar and the band launching into the anthemic “P. Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up).” Throughout the show, small sections of songs from the P-Funk catalogue where played in a seamless funk medley. The gospel testifying of “Your and Your Folks, Me and My Folks” gave the audience a seat at the electrified church of funk, while “(Not Just) Knee Deep,” a tune that retrospectively shows their influence on both rap and new wave music, got everyone out of their pews and dancing. As for the negative, Mary Griffin has a fine voice, but her screechy caterwauling on a cover of Cee Lo Green’s “Crazy” was horrific. It was so painful that I imagine it would give the prison guards at Guantanamo Bay nightmares. Additionally, Michael Hampton’s take on “Maggot Brain” was extremely disappointing. Hampton removed all the emotional resonance from Eddie Hazel’s legendary performance and the extended solo became a self-indulgent bore.

But our ringleader George Clinton has been in showbiz for decades and knows how to end a show. Heading into the homestretch, the group teased “Uncle Jam” and then turned excess into magic with their biggest hit, the crowd sing along “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker).” The playfully naughty “Let’s Play Hooky” then gave way to the wonderfully buoyant “Bounce to This.” At the end of the show, approximately fifteen colorfully dressed women from the audience were invited on the already crowded stage for the “Atomic Dog” finale. The 1982 cat chaser had the crowd laughing, dancing, and singing as the two hour show ended. It wasn’t the classic P-Funk that we remember from the 1970s and there’s no reason to pretend that it should be. Still, if you free your mind of any preconceived notions of P-Funk’s past, your backside will undoubtedly still follow.

Grade – B.

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