Thursday, July 16, 2015

Live Review: George Clinton and Parliment Funkadelic 7/3/15 NYC

George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic
7/3/15 Governors Island Beach Club, NYC

Sometimes you catch magic out an aging legend. I can still recall the time in 2005 Bob Dylan played an simply jaw dropping version of "Visions of Johanna" at the Beacon Theater. With my friend Tom in attendance we were both astounded at an otherwise ordinary show Bob had dug deep and played a song for the ages, specifically singing like he hadn't sang in years. It was proof that legends are legends for reasons and have magic in their songs.
Unfortunately, on this gorgeous summer night George Clinton had none of that magic.

George Clinton is certainly a legend but maybe it is the Samson theory as he has chopped off his rainbow braids or perhaps he has just come to the end of the line, but whatever the reason I have seen my last Clinton show (turns out, not true). There has always been an issue with who exactly is Parliament Funkadelic, or the P-Funk All-Stars, or with whoever is backing him up from tour to tour since the original players long left and tonight was no different. There were a horde of characters on stage, many who were just there to sing backup and dance, which has added to the party atmosphere in the past, but just seemed cluttered this evening.

There were multiple issues with the sound, speakers were blown, guitars were put way to high in the mix, mics weren't always on and a bass drum washed out a lot of the vocals when they were, it was clear George was not in the best form. Sitting down for some songs, and letting the younger players take front stage was one part of it, but the energy just never materialized from anyone on stage. Sometimes songs need some help finding their way to ears. 

On the plus side opening band Fonky Kong put on a smooth funky jazz set and did the job of hyping up the crowd as the sunset on the gorgeous night. The Lettuce side project though seemed leaps and bounds more prepared then the main act as fans wandered around the beach/club grounds playing ping pong and lounging.

One aspect that was also curious for the night was the billing of the show as a Bar-B-Que. While multiple vendors were on site, only one served barbeque, they just as easily could have billed it a dumpling fest since one dumpling vendor was also on hand.

Under the gorgeous skies  with good friends though it was hard to be upset as the holiday weekend was just getting started. It is however safe to say George and I will always have our memories (and their are many) but for the live show we will skip future engagements with Dr. Funkenstein. 

If you are curious of the best musical part of the evening, you can stream the Fonky Kong set below:


  1. Bummed you got a low-energy show + sound issues. The reviews for this tour have been overwhelmingly positive and I caught a killer set in MSP. They have been on the road for a couple months now, so the whole crew might have been running out of gas. I want to address a few points, just for further edification:

    1. The P-Funk Allstars moniker is long dead. George killed it as soon as he got the legal right to use Parliament Funkadelic on bills again. The Parliament Funkadelic lineup has been amorphous from the start (it is, after all, a collective - not a band), so it is pointless to complain about the original players being gone. Nearly half of the original Funkadelic lineup is deceased.

    2. The rainbow braids were extensions. George didn't chop them off, he just took them out. I think it was a symbolic act when he cleaned up. More on that in a moment.

    3. Most of the players with him at the moment have been part of the collective for quite some time. P-Nut Johnson (backing vocals) has been with George since '76. Clip Payne (synth and vocals) has been with the group since '77. Bennie Cowan (Trumpet) since '78. Blackbyrd McKnight (guitar) and Lige Curry (bass) have been around since about 1981. Greg Thomas (sax) has been in a year or two longer than that. Ricky Rouse (guitar) has only done sporadic work with GC since the 90's, but he co-produced a lot of Dr. Dre/G Funk ish going back to The Chronic, so he is a bad mother. You got a Kendra Foster (vocals) appearance, which is cool because she hasn't been around much - she co-wrote D-Angelo's latest album and was out on tour with him for awhile. You get the point, this is largely the band he has had for most of the last 30+ years. Many of the other singers are George's kids and grandkids, which is a pretty cool thing for him. More on that in a minute as well.

    4. George just turned 74 and in the last five years kicked a 30+ year crack cocaine habit and is now working on a 20+ year battle with obesity. He has been in the music business for nearly 60 years. If he has to sit down once in awhile to catch his breath, nobody should have a problem with that.

    5. GC cut lead vocals on less than 50% of the P's catalog. As I said, the younger folks who took center stage are mostly his kids and grandkids, all of whom have lead tracks on the new Funkadelic record. He's just trying to push his new material, which is his right. To the extent that the P has had a "lead vocalist", it was Garry Shider, and Garry has been in the ground for five years now. GC won't be able to ever adequately fill that spot again and he isn't trying to. He does have Garry's kid up there (guitar, vocals), which is also a pretty cool thing to do.

    Finally, sound issues are on the venue, not the band. They are a tough group to dial in and I have seen places get it right and I have seen places get it wrong. It is ironic that the guitars were too high, the complaint has typically been the opposite this tour. Blackbyrd and Ricky together rip it up, it is a shame they didn't have that dialed in better. Here they are doing "Maggot Brain":

    None of this is meant to explain away what very well could have been a mediocre performance or convince the writer to give GC another shot. Just thought I'd give your readers a little more context. There are plenty of other options when it comes to your concert dollar and there is no question that GC is past his prime. You can say that about most 74-year old musicians. But given the amount that he has given to modern, popular music, and what he has gone through on a personal level, I think he deserves the right to go out on the road and have a good time if that's what he wants to do. GC doesn't owe any of us anything at this point. Plus, wasn't it a free show?

    Keep the good material flowing, love the site.



    1. PS - Steve Boyd, who does a lot of the lead vocals now, has been around since '78. He was part of the infamous PCU cameo, along with quite a few of the other players mentioned in my earlier comment.

    2. Thank you very much for the informative and thoughtful comment. Appreciate all the added info it greatly informs people reading this.

      Just a few points for clarification from my end, it wasn't a free show, there were ways to get some free tickets but face was $35. I don't like bringing up money when it comes to reviews, because even if it is free, the performer will never give less, just doesn't happen. They are artists and professionals or at least they should be.

      You are correct with the sound and the venue, but ideally a sound check before the start, and live adjustments can be made, and on this night it didn't seem like any of that was a priority.

      I'm not sure you are correct in saying he did lead vocals on only 50% of Parliament Funkadelic albums, but either way George Clinton IS Parliament Funkadelic. Sure he is older, and can certainly let others sing, but when you ARE the band some more energy is needed. I said the same of Shane McGowan when I last saw the Pogues.

      Thanks again for all the info and thoughtful comment.