LIVE: George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic @ Alive at Five, 6/27/13

(photo by Rudy Lu)

(photo by Rudy Lu)

Review by Greg Haymes
Photographs by Rudy Lu, Richard Brody, Timothy Reidy

“We want the funk/Give up the funk…”

Maybe you were there back in 2009 when George Clinton and his Parliament-Funkadelic collective served up a nearly five-hour extravaganza at Northern Lights that ended only when the soundman shut down the PA system and walked away at 4am.

“We need the funk/Gotta have the funk…”

Maybe you were there back in 1996 at Skidmore College, when Clinton wore a Mickey Mouse bedsheet as though it were a tent-like, tribal dashiki, while an oversized top hat with a florescent painting of an extraterrestrial on the front only partially covered the Day-Glo, rainbow-colored dreadlocks that hung down to his shoulders.

“We want the funk/Give up the funk…”

Or maybe you were there way back in the day when Clinton landed the actual Mothership on the stage of the Palace Theatre.

“We need the funk/Gotta have the funk…”

Well, if you caught any of those shows, you should consider yourself lucky. I know I certainly do.

And if you came for George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic’s legendary costumes, theatrics, stage sets and play-all-night-stamina of those psychedelic-funk days gone by, you may have walked away disappointed by the band’s no-frills Alive at Five concert in Albany’s Riverfront Park.

“Swing down, sweet chariot/Stop and let me ride…”

But if you came to Alive at Five for the music – and not the circus – well then, you got the funk. Because even at the age of 70-something, Clinton and his ever-evolving funk collective know how to bring it.

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“Get up for the downstroke/Everybody get up…”

From the opening volley of “Standing On the Verge of Gettin’ It On” to final encore of “Mothership Connection (Star Child),” songs exactly didn’t start or stop. Instead, they were transformed – the groove picking up tempo or slowing down, musicians exchanging instruments and wandering on and off the stage just as casually as you’d walk into the store for a loaf bread. And without missing a beat, songs from the vast catalogs of Parliament, Funkadelic, Clinton or the P-Funk Allstars were all effortlessly woven together with deft craftsmanship. No question about it, Clinton’s current crew was certainly up to the task of pushing the P-Funk groove into the future.

“Free your mind and you ass will follow…”

As usual, it was impossible to tell just how big the band was, as different bandmembers continually entered and exited the stage, but there were frequently as many as 16 musicians on the stage at once. And that’s not counting special guests like Albany’s Tulip Queen and members of her court, who were center stage boogying down during the yeowling, howling “Atomic Dog.”

“Bow wow wow, yippee-yo, yippee-yah…”

“Flash Light.” “(Not Just) Knee Deep.” “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker).” “P. Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up).” Mixed in along the way, bits and pieces of “Standing On the Verge of Getting It On,” “Get Up for the Down Stroke,” “Dr. Funkenstein” and even the old Les Brown big band standard “Sentimental Journey” slipped into the groove.

“Shit, goddamn, get off your ass and jam…”

And, of course, guitarist Michael Hampton ripped through the epic, funk-gone-heavy metal instrumental, “Maggot Brain.” And just when we thought the funk-bomb had been detonated for the last time, they came roaring back with a 25-minute encore of “One Nation Under a Groove” and “Mothership Connection (Star Child).” Oh, give up the funk…

“Ain’t no party like a P-Funk party ’cause a P-Funk party don’t stop…”

Nearly as sprawling as Clinton’s crew, the 11-piece Local 518 horn-fueled party band Funk Evolution warmed up the crowd with a solid opening set that drew from the songbags of Kool & the Gang, Wild Cherry, the James Gang and Chicago.

SECOND OPINIONS
Excerpt from David Singer’s review at The Daily Gazette: “‘So high you can’t get over it,’ ‘Do you promise the funk, the whole funk and nothing but the funk,’ and ‘We need the funk’ were typical shouts from the various vocalists on stage, including Clinton. Clinton did not always have the largest stage presence, nor appear to be leading the group at every moment, but the show was clearly his. For an encore, Clinton introduced Garrett Shider, son of longtime P-Funk member, the late Garry Shider. The younger Shider sang a rowdy ‘One Nation Under Groove,’ demanding more energy from the crowd and the band as the song went deeper and deeper. A slapping funky bass solo cut the song in the middle, but somehow, amid all those notes, it sustained the dance energy. Not everything performed was funk — they veered a few times into guitar-heavy rock — but the crowd was happy to absorb anything Clinton’s group played. While the music is seen as light and simple these days, at the time, Clinton had transformed — invented — his brand of funk from soul music, and many consider it a seed to the yet-to-emerge rap music.”

(photo by Rudy Lu)

(photo by Rudy Lu)

(photo by Timothy Reidy)

(photo by Timothy Reidy)

(photo by Timothy Reidy)

(photo by Timothy Reidy)

(photo by Richard Brody)

(photo by Richard Brody)

(photo by Timothy Reid)

(photo by Timothy Reid)

(photo by Rudy Lu)

(photo by Rudy Lu)

(photo by Rudy Lu)

(photo by Rudy Lu)

Funk Evolution (photo by Rudy Lu)

Funk Evolution (photo by Rudy Lu)

(photo by Rudy Lu)

(photo by Rudy Lu)

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