George Clinton & Parliament/Funkadelic
September 28, 2014
The Godfather Of Funk.
The Big Mac Daddy of the Mothership Connection.
Whatever you want to call the Almighty Master of Funk, you would have definitely called him entertaining on this Sunday evening at the beautiful Arcada Theater in St. Charles, IL.
Arcada owner Ron Onesti has this great knack for creating a party in his intimate 900-seat venue, no matter who it is taking the stage. But tonight, Onesti had George Clinton and his P-Funk mob, and this Arcada crowd couldn't have been ready for the party that was about to commence.
Now, when I say Clinton had his P-Funk mob, I do mean mob. Some cities don't have as many people as Clinton had on his stage. There were two drummers, two bass players, two guitarists, two keyboard players, two horns, and about 7 or 8 singers, at least. It was impossible to monitor exactly who was on the stage at any given moment. You might think this to be excessive, and it probably was, but it made for one happenin' party.
When I set out for this show I had expectations of something like a funkified KC and the Sunshine Band. I knew it would be a fun show, but thought it would be a well organized and choreographed performance that would have some R&B/dance leanings. I couldn't have been more wrong. This show was more Rage Against The Machine than it was KC and the Sunshine Band. From the opening number, Clinton and his band came at you with full force.
The rhythm section started things off by laying down a nasty groove, which served as the welcome music for the man of the evening to slyly take the stage. After Clinton gripped the mic at center stage, guitarist Rickey Rouse started what would be a never-ending guitar shredfest. Rouse, who played for Stevie Wonder at the age of 7, was like a chocolate Clint Eastwood character throughout the night. With a cool, calm and collected demeanor, complete with a stone face and the occasional dark shades, Rouse incessantly melted every face in the house. From the moment he struck that first power chord, Rouse scared the daylights out of every single ear, including Clinton himself. His amp was way past 11, and it immediately had Clinton motioning for some relief. Rouse seemed to ignore Clinton's look of alarm and proceeded to the front of the stage where he would rip off the most menacing solo I think I've ever seen - and it lasted for about 120 minutes. Clinton just grinned, shook his head, and chalked it up to Rickey being Rickey. Aside from tapping out all kinds of licks with his fingers, he would play them behind his head and with his teeth. Rouse is a badass. A real badass.
Every musician on this stage deserved to have a spotlight on them. We got brilliant solos from 40-year veteran guitarist Michael Hampton, and 36-year Parliament/Funkadelic vets Greg Thomas sax) and Bennie Cowan (trumpet). The jamming was loud and intense no matter who was in demand of the spotlight. As the always changing mob of musicians ran through classics like "Flash Light," "Give Up The Funk," and their signature song "P-Funk (Wants To Get Funked Up)," we saw Clinton step into the crowd and drink a fan's beer, we saw about 20 or 30 women (at Clinton's request) join the mob on stage, and we got Sir Nose. Sir Nose is a character that shows up in many of Parliament's songs, adding a comedic tilt to the already comical material. The insanely fit, flexible, and chiseled Sir Nose sauntered out onto the stage with a feathered vest and pants with an over-sized pimp hat and a phallic-type nose, and delivered that same kind of comedic craziness to this show that was so popular on those old records.
Another of the great highlights of this show had to be the singing performance from Kendra Foster, especially on the song "Bounce 2 This." Aside from being a female voice that gave the overall sound of the show a little change of direction, Foster is a sensational force that demands attention. Her husky tone and her retro 70's blaxploitation-type sexiness was a key component here.
From the first second to the last of their two-hour set, this mob never stopped playing. Never. Not even once. And during this non-stop party, Clinton was the ultimate ringmaster, maintaining a nice big smile throughout the night. I don't think I've ever seen more jamming or more energy from any live show. And you know what the biggest kicker of it all is, they had no setlist and played the whole gig by "feel." With people coming and going and plugging in mid-song at times, I can guarantee you that this band never plays the same show twice. It's astonishing to watch a complete out-of-control freak show make a two-hour jam sound so damn good.
Simply put, George Clinton and his Parliament/Funkadelic mob did it to me in my earhole and we all got funked up together. And, I won't rest easy until I put a glide in my stride and a dip in my hip and make my next connection with the Mothership.