When the Mothership descended upon Hammond last Friday, it brought with it not only rain and high winds but also a storm in the form of a Friday night funk tutorial courtesy of George Clinton and Cameo…
Aside from the music, the most impressive part about this show was the crowd. From the moment that V103’s Herb Kent stepped onstage to work the audience between acts, it was clear that this was going to be a fun night. It has been a long time since I saw a crowd who knew every word to every song and that danced as if it was the last time they would ever experience live music. Pat yourselves on the back everyone because you were a huge part of what made that show such a blast.
Cameo came on first, a performance which saw codpiece clad frontman Larry Blackmon lead a seven piece band that could flat out bring it. Led by guitarist Charlie Singleton (at least I think it’s Charlie Singleton… though I’m having a hard time verifying that online), the band added a strong rock element (bordering at times on psychedelia and even metal) to their songs. Cameo ripped through a set of hits that included “Candy,” “Back and Forth” and of course “Word Up.”
At seventy years of age, Parliament/Funkadelic founder (and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer) George Clinton has noticably lost a step. His voice is hoarse and he moves a bit slower, content to let his band do the heavy lifting (both as singers and players). In fact, the first twenty minutes of the show saw Clinton’s band improvising funky grooves… their iconic leader nowhere in sight (for the first and only time of the night, people actually sat down). What started as a twelve piece band when Clinton finally appeared eventually morphed into a nearly twenty member ensemble (at nineteen people onstage, I eventually quit counting). When Clinton finally did take the stage, he took a seat on the drum riser within five minutes. Gone are the rainbow locks… And here instead, a graying beard. But George Clinton remains the clear leader of that band. He calls the shots (Though at times on Friday, it felt as if he was merely a figurehead as opposed to an active participant in the music).
But that said, Clinton’s band is really something to behold. And they’re tight. The band didn’t just merely save his set but they transformed it into something entertaining and impressive. While legendary Parliament/Funkadelic members like Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell are no longer in the fold, the band is nevertheless solid. I would love to know how on earth it is possible to tour with as many people as Clinton has in his camp and still turn a profit.
Seeing George Clinton perform numbers from the funk canon that he virtually invented is a pretty amazing thing. While I knew that contemporary hip hop artists like Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre (to name only a few) all borrowed liberally from Clinton’s arsenal, hearing the original songs and realizing it over and over again throughout the course of the night was really something.
Clinton’s band had it together and at times even bordered on being a jam band… weaving from one song to another seamlessly for nearly twenty or thirty minutes at a time. Highlights of the set included hits like “Flashlight,” “Atomic Dog,” and “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)” that sound as fresh today as they did in the seventies, funk you very much.