After a dizzying array of aging superstar musicians passed through New Orleans this past year, it was easy to miss the Master of Funk on his farewell tour at the Fillmore Sunday night. Seventy-eight- year-old George Clinton has decided that seven decades of doo wop, r&b, psychedelic rock, reggae, funk, rap and hip hop were enough, and it was time to hang up his mic.
Past incarnations of the band included well-known musicians like Bernie Worrell and Bootsy Collins, and although the faces and costumed characters have changed, the current musicians still know how to funk. I used to catch P-Funk every time they toured through Atlanta back in the nineties. By the time I moved to New Orleans, my musical tastes had changed, and the P-Funk shows had become more caricature and farce than actual funk. I stopped seeing them altogether some time in the early 2000s, at Republic or TwiRoPa, I can't remember which. Seeing as it was the final show of the final tour for George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, I decided to try and relive old memories for one last night of legendary funk.
I remember shows where George Clinton didn't grace the stage until three songs in, and others where he was off the stage as much as he was on. Tonight, after opening sets by George Porter and Ivan Neville's Dumpstafunk, Clinton was completely engaged in the performance from the get-go. Starting just after eleven fifteen with "Dog Star (Fly On)," Clinton led a group of over twenty plus musicians on a funkalicious groove for the opening hour of the show. The band was tight as they segued from hits like "Up for the Down Stroke," "P Funk Wants to Get Funked Up," and "Maggot Brain" into Clinton's deep, soulful, spoken word sci-fi banter in between songs.
The crowd was absolutely rocking through the dizzying array of hits, the floor of the Fillmore noticeably shaking. But it was almost a tale of two shows as Clinton spent the next forty-five minutes giving each band member a two-minute solo on everything from drums to bass to back up singer. It even included a blues standard by shaggy-haired keyboardist Danny Bedrosian, who was fun to watch wiggling and jiggling at the back of the stage. The sax solo by Greg Thomas was the one highlight of that interlude.
After bouncing back with the fan-favorite "Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)," the
band dove back into their spacey solo clips. With that, we decided to call it a night around one-fifteen,
missing the last two songs of the evening.
While the cast of characters may have changed, the show was essentially the same as I
remembered. At times brilliant, at other times disjointed and boring. And although this incarnation of
the band was fine, I missed the inanity of the early days with Bernie and Bootsy and a dude running
around the stage in an oversized diaper shaking a giant toy rattle.