Concert Review: George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic Live at the Cubby Bear (Thursday, 5/10/12 in Chicago)

Concert Review: George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic Live at the Cubby Bear (Thursday, 5/10/12 in Chicago)

Lakeview made their funk the P-Funk Thursday night as The Mothership descended upon the Chicagoland area once again…

At over seventy years of age, George Clinton shows little sign of slowing down.

Ever the innovator, he’s worked tirelessly to educate young artists about copyright laws, is engaged in lawsuits that have the potential to change the way the industry deals with online royalties and copyrights and has even gone so far as to work in conjunction with Congressman John Conyers, Jr. (U.S. Representative from Michigan) on “The P-Funk Initiative” (H.R. 848), a bill aimed at protecting artist’s rights.

And while so many musicians (young and old) struggle to try and figure out how to embrace the internet as an artist, George Clinton once again showed his ability to stay ahead of the curve recently completing a successful, online Indiegogo campaign to finance the restoration/preservation of his recordings as well as a series of studio upgrades.

He recently completed a mixtape with hip-hop artist Aleon Craft and luckily he still finds the time to tour.

To the tune of about two hundred tour dates a year.

In the past year or so alone, Clinton has performed at The Venue in Hammond, IN, in Chicago at a benefit for the Museum of Contemporary Art and again last Thursday at the Cubby Bear.

And while Bootsy, Bernie and Maceo have moved on to more funkadelic pastures, Clinton nevertheless tours with a Parliament Funkadelic lineup that is nearly as massive.  Thursday’s show at Cubby Bear clocked in at just under three hours and by my quite unofficial tally featured SEVENTEEN performers onstage at one point.  I didn’t think the Cubby Bear stage could even hold SEVENTEEN people.  I was wrong.

When it comes to the live show, at this point, George allows his band to do most of the heavy lifting.  That said, for the first and last forty-five minutes of Thursday’s show, George was as energized, animated and vocal as I’ve seen him in the past few years (certainly moreso than at last September’s show in Hammond).  And while George’s voice more closely resembles a raspy growl these days, for the rest of that time, watching his band was a treat Thursday.

While certainly the progenitors of funk, Parliament and Funkadelic were always capable of so much more.  It was impressive to watch the band veer deftly between not only funk but also territory that crossed into jazz, big band, and at one point a near twenty minute stretch of double-neck guitar rock courtesy of Mike Hampton (a band member since 1973 and member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame) that teetered on the brink of metal.

There was a sexy nurse.  A guy walking on his hands.  George’s son.  George’s granddaughter.  George’s grandson.  To quote Sly Stone, it was a family affair but more importantly it was the type of stage spectacle most acts don’t bother touring these days and in a small club like Cubby Bear, it was extremely entertaining.

It’s easy to forget just how many artists Clinton has influenced.  He practically invented funk but there’s more to it than that and in the live setting, those thoughts came flooding back to me.  His funk catalog obviously speaks for itself but people don’t realize how music from 1982’s Computer Games dabbled in hip-hop and electronic music decades before it became fashionable or commercial (“Atomic Dog” probably stands as the best example of that and it was a blast closing out the show Thursday at Cubby Bear).  And as the P-Funk hits kept coming, it made me realize the role George played lending credibility to hip-hop in the nineties as he either collaborated with or was sampled by just about everyone (Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube, 2Pac, etc.).

I did think it was a bit odd that George didn’t join his colleagues for their rendition of “One Nation Under a Groove” but the band made the Funkadelic classic their own, the organ fueling a blues-infused, near Gospel style stomp.  My favorite song of the night was actually the fifteen minute psychadelic journey the band took me on with the 1970 Funkadelic hit “I Bet You” to open the show.  I don’t even know how the band created some of the sounds that I heard during that performance.

When all was said and done Thursday night at Cubby Bear  just before 1AM (two hours and fifty minutes after it started), it was quite clear that George Clinton still very much enjoys what he’s doing:  innovating, performing and ultimately educating.  Afterall, unlike many of his peers, he’s never stopped doing it.  Why?  Because we want the funk.  We need the funk.  Gotta have that funk.

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