Tuesday, July 3, 2018

George Clinton & Parliament/Funkadelic @ Casino de Paris - July 3rd, 2018

This is not the review I wanted to write. 

For a couple of years during high school I was obsessed with all things P-Funk. I'd buy records just because Bootsy played on them. I'd track down terrible sounding live bootlegs from the seventies just to hear another version of Maggot Brain. I saw Bootsy Collins play with Lucky Peterson instead of going to my senior prom. Then in 1998 I finally saw the George Clinton P-Funk All-Stars for the first time and it was everything I hoped it would be, a funky lysergic transe that built up and up and up... The climax never came however because they played past curfew and the building shut them down.

Ten years later I saw them again and it was just as intense. Seeing Garry Shider in his trademark nappies singing Cosmic Slop will forever remain one of my favorite concert memories.

So another ten years later I expected to relive much of the same insanity. I sat (well, stood) through the generic opening band (Malka Family, whose set was plagued by sound issues that were actually the least of their problems) waiting effervently for the main act, knowing I'd be in for a night of psychedelic groove and musical communion. But that's not what happened.

For the first few songs, a bunch of faceless musicians and rappers came out playing flaccid trap music. Most sounds came out of the keyboards and samplers, and even bassist Lige Curry was virtually unused. Gary "Mudbone" Cooper and George Clinton came out a few songs later, but either just hung around or sat while the young performers kept doing whatever it was they were doing. No guitars, no horns, just drum machines and electronics that never amounted to anything.

I get that George Clinton is pushing eighty and needs to rest. I get that he is rightfully proud of his hip-hop legacy and I get that he wants to showcase his progeny. But this was a tuneless, groove-less mess. Chief Keef this wasn't.

Garry Shider is dead, so I understand the absence of Cosmic Slop. It's hard to imagine someone singing that song but him, even though his son was here playing guitar. What's harder to understand is the absence of Michael "Kidd Funkadelic" Hampton, who was subbing for the late Eddie Hazel on Maggot Brain. That task is now bestowed upon Dewayne "Blackbyrd" McKnight, who did a fine job. That is where the concert started taking off. But by the time they brought out the horns and got to the real funk it was too little too late. The following forty-five minutes of hits were good but never attained the transcendent heights they used to deliver nightly.

George Clinton says he will retire after this tour and let the alumni carry on with the band but judging from last night this is one group that should have been put to sleep years ago. As much as it pains me to say it, this is no longer one Nation under a groove: like Sir Nose, the Mothership is now sadly devoid of Funk.

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