Review by Fred Rudofsky
Photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk, Stanley Johnson, Timothy Reidy and Richard Brody
“We want the funk! Got to have that funk!”
When Albany’s funkateers come out of the woodwork – in the thousands on a perfect mid-June evening – and begin chanting those nine words, all is well in Nippertown.
Bootsy Collins, showman extraordinaire equipped with his star-shaped, rhinestone-encrusted bass, led an energetic 10-piece band for nearly an hour and a half of righteous grooves that largely drew upon his long tenure with Parliament-Funkadelic. Judging by the crowd’s fervor – especially mid-set when he made his way like a preacher through the amphitheatre of Riverfront Park in Albany’s Corning Preserve – the ebullient Collins is welcome anytime he decides to visit.
The native of Cincinnati announced, “The Mothership had officially landed” and slammed into “Aqua Boogie,” his three backing vocalists handling the parenthetical tongue-twister of the song title very well. It was time turn this mother out, indeed. Songs, or even just snippets of them, blended into tasty jams with shout-outs to “rubber bands and funkateers”, the call for “funkin’ in the sunshine” and the urge to “get up for the downstroke.”
Collins suddenly exited for a costume change (three times during the show, just so you know), leaving the band to indulge a fine medley of Sly & the Family Stone songs, only to return some “14 karat funk” with slapped bass and a slamming riff that had the crowd moving as one, on the one. “I’d Rather Be with You” was the epitome of a slow jam, with wry, Hendrix-like guarantees (“Ready to slide some wood into that fire, baby!”) and virtuoso bass madness, as the audience snapped their fingers like they were at a beatnik poetry reading.
With Bootsy Collins in command, stretching out never sounded so good. “Dr. Funkenstein” interpolated a bit of Allen Toussaint’s “Yes We Can”; “Mothership Connection” and “P-Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up)” closed out the show, bringing tears to the eyes of those who had followed the Mothership in the 1970s and smiles to those youngsters who were just being born when Collins was getting sampled heavily by Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg and Ice Cube.
Go Bootsy, go Bootsy, go Bootsy…