Concert Review: Bootsy Collins Live at Cubby Bear (Thursday, 6/21/12 - With Setlist)

Concert Review: Bootsy Collins Live at Cubby Bear (Thursday, 6/21/12 - With Setlist)
Photo by Will Byington

The Mothership made an encore appearance Thursday night in Lakeview as Bootsy Collins took to the Cubby Bear stage for a night of P-Funk, solo hits and more...

Who would've guessed that Cubby Bear Wrigleyville would wind up as Chicago's summertime home of the funk?

With a May appearance by George Clinton and Friday's performance by former Parliament/Funkadelic member Bootsy Collins, that's exactly what it has become.

And as much as I gushed about that May Clinton show... Bootsy was actually better.  Bootsy Collins circa 2012 is a more compelling stage presence than George but more importantly, the show was better musicially too.

With George Clinton pushing 72 years of age, it's easy to forget that Bootsy is still relatively young at 60 (which is frightening because it means that he was only about 18 years old as a member of James Brown's legendary backing band the JB's in 1969).

Bootsy is a character.  With his flashy costumes, witty banter and star shaped sunglasses and guitar, often lost in the mix is the fact that he's a great bass player:  one of funk's best.  And his unique vocals and thunderous playing laid the foundation for quite the party, establishing the groove Thursday night at Cubby Bear.

I counted 13 people onstage (which puts Bootsy in third place so far this year behind George Clinton's 19 and Snoop Dogg's 18 people onstage).  Bootsy, who runs an online funk university, laid out for the Cubby Bear crowd quite the funk curriculum, one heavy on prerequisites from the canon like Sly Stone, Parliament and his own solo material.

A Sly and the Family Stone set came early, consisting of a medley that featured "Higher," "Dance to the Music," "Everyday People" and "Stand."  But "Higher" was the standout.  It's one of my all-time favorite pieces of bass guitar playing.  Bootsy's bass plodded along, pummeling the crowd.  But not even that boneshaking rumble could quell the call and response between band and audience.

Following the Sly medley, the band moved on with a version of the 1978 Parliament classic "Flash Light" (a song Bootsy co-wrote with Clinton and Bernie Worrell).  Throughout the show, Bootsy turned to Funkadelic for "One Nation Under a Groove" but came back to Parliament during the encore for "Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off Sucker)."

Bootsy Collins (Photo by Will Byington)
Photo by Will Byington

But it was a Bootsy solo cut that made my night.  "I'd Rather Be With You" was slow, sensual, deliberate and dirty.  And while it's easy to say that "the hit" was the best of the night, on this night there was no doubt.  Asking fans to "part the Red Sea," Bootsy jumped down from the stage and made his way through the crowd hugging, high fiving, jumping and dancing with just about everyone in the packed room.  This went on for ten or fifteen minutes and the band kept the music going while the crowd's love-in with their star continued.  And while the crowd ate it up, it was easy to see that Bootsy may just have been having more fun than anyone in the room.

As Bootsy continued his funk clinic, the show ended in simple but poignant style.  "Before I leave, I'd like to leave y'all with one thing:  This is where the funk started." said Collins as he led the crowd in an a capella rendition of "One Nation Under a Groove" trading off lines with nearly full audience participation:

"It's official...

Family approved.

One nation...

Under a groove."

"Chicago is the funk capital of the world!" said Collins.  And so far this summer, I'd have to agree.

Bootsy Collins setlist (Cubby Bear, Chicago 6/21/12)

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    Jim Ryan

    Jim Ryan has written about music in print and online for a variety of Chicagoland publications for over fifteen years. In addition to duties filling in as Traffic Anchor on CLTV or in the helicopter on NBC 5, you can also catch him Sunday nights at 6PM central as host of "The Rock N' Roll Radio Program" on AM 1420 WIMS and AM 1060 WHFB (streaming at wimsradio.com and via the TuneIn Radio app for the smart phone or tablet). Jim has also worked locally for WXRT-FM, lives within walking distance of the Metro and is an avid White Sox and Blackhawks fan whose first live concert experience came at Comiskey Park in 1984 during the Jacksons' "Victory" tour.

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