Support act Diafrix put on a short set of about half an hour. While reasonably enjoyable, they didn’t really stand out in any way. A hip hop trio, they did a decent job of getting the crowd warmed up for what would turn out to be an epic three hour set by the man behind Parliament and Funkadelic, and his massive band.
The core of the current Parliament/Funkadelic hit the stage to a rapturous response from the audience. For the first four songs, various singers took turns performing. By this point, the crowd where this scribe was positioned were going absolutely nuts. Parliament/Funkadelic live shows have always been more like a party than a traditional live concert. The man himself, Mr George Clinton, sailed on stage to a thunderous applause from the crowd.
George Clinton is one of the architects of not just funk music, but modern music in general. Without him and the various musical collectives he has been involved in over the past near fifty years, music wouldn’t be what it is today. This was never more evident in some of the musical selections playing on the PA before the band hit the stage, featuring the likes of Prince, Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder. Clinton’s musical voyage and vision has involved some truly extraordinary musicians over the years, such as legendary bass player William “Bootsy” Collins and keyboardist Bernie Worrell.
George himself has admitted in interviews that his voice is pretty much shot in regards to singing. To compensate for this in a live format, a number of singers shared vocal duties throughout the night. The various male and female singers are very capable and talented vocalists. It is clear by their smiles and body language that they love the music as much as both George and the audience in front of them.
When he did sing, George was more like a band leader, conducting both the band and the audience. Now 70 years old, he still receives a great deal of admiration and love; the crowd were utterly charmed by the man. A lovely moment during the show was when George’s grand daughter, Leticia, joined the band onstage for the song ‘I Want Some’.
The band were an absolute joy to listen to. They illustrated the difference between hearing music on record and hearing it performed live. The music seemed to have a life and pulse that can’t quite be captured on record. At various times, there were up to two dozen people on stage! The music created by Parliament and Funkadelic over the years has bought a great deal of happiness and joy to listeners and never was this more evident than tonight.
Unfortunately, the night was marred slightly by a couple of uninvited stage invaders and the forceful measures taken by security to get them off stage. After the unfortunate death of Dimebag Darrell of Pantera and Damageplan some years ago at the hands of a deranged stage invader who shot him at point blank range, how a crowd should behave has changed dramatically. It took the audience out of the wonderful and positive vibe the band had created via their music. Thankfully, both band and crowd found the vibe again once more soon after.
Musical highlights of the night included ‘Up On The Down Stroke’, ‘Flashlight’, ‘Atomic Dog’ (which Snoop Dogg pretty much ripped off wholesale for his debut single ‘What’s My Name?’) and an storming rendition of ‘Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off This Sucker)’, which had the entire crowd going berserk.
The highlight of the concert for this scribe was the final song of the night, an absolutely blistering version of ‘Maggot Brain’. This is the track that is famous for the direction that George Clinton gave to his guitarist in the early 1970’s, the late, great Eddie Hazel, to ‘play like your mamma just died’. Performed tonight by lead guitarist Michael Hampton, AKA Kid Funk, this was truly among one of those ‘moments’ that you experience when seeing live music, the truly highest point of a fantastic night.
Seeing George Clinton and his Parliament/Funkadelic collective live was truly a religious experience, and considering he is now getting on in years, sadly it may be his last.
– Neil Evans