Review: George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars (2009)

(Above: George Clinton is an “Atomic Dog.”)

By Joel Francis
The Kansas City Star

For the third consecutive spring, George Clinton brought the Mothership Connection to Crossroads KC.

Unfortunately, Friday night’s two-and-a-half-hour set could never build momentum and was capsized by too many limp numbers. Although the repertoire hardly changed from previous years, the band’s setlist-free jams were a double-edged sword. Songs were either exciting or went nowhere.

Clinton’s P-Funk All-Stars are less a band than a troupe. At one point there were six guitarist stretched across the front of the stage. Everyone was in costume. There’s axeman with the rainbow-colored Afro, angels out of a Victoria’s Secrets ad, Diaper Man Gary Shider, another male guitarist in a wedding dress and veil, several backup singers in Mardi Gras masks and Sir Nose, the acrobatic agitator in a white fur coat.

In the middle of it all was Clinton himself, clad in a black jacket and pants, sporting his trademark Crayola-sponsored headpiece and a necklace that looked like it was borrowed from Flava Flav.

While the depth and diversity of the ensemble is a great strength –- musicians can cycle on and off stage leaving fresh fingers and never-ending jams -– it is also an Achilles heel. For a band so tight, the performances tend to sprawl. And while his democracy is to be commended, Clinton gives each of his performers often unnecessary time in the spotlight. I’d much rather have heard “Bop Gun” than watched Roller Girl dance and sing the next-to-closing number.

The night got off to a solid start with perennial opener “Funkentelechy” and the instrumental “Cosmic Slop.” The evening’s high point came early. The 15-minute version of “Flashlight” featured a pair of wicked horn solos and the band demonstrating why Clinton’s songs hold up so well over a generation later.

“Freak of the Week” initially seemed like a great follow-up, but despite incorporating parts of “Sentimental Journey” and a scat-vocal interlude, the song was stuck in a slow pace that never really got off the ground.

This set the pattern. The dynamic “Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker)” was part of an uber-medley with “Up For the Down Stroke” a sax solo and a tribute to James Brown. It was sandwiched by an unusually mellow “One Nation Under A Groove” and the turgid “Bounce 2 This,” which was little more than a bassline and repetition of its title.

At the start of the night, the two-thirds-full lawn was ready to dance and get down, but the crowd started thinning during “Maggot Brain,” the instrumental tour de force that appeared an hour into the set. By the end of “Bounce 2 This” the lawn was empty past the sound tent, save a few pockets of dedicated dancers.

The night ended on a high note with “Atomic Dog,” but by then it was too late. Too many stops and starts had killed the night’s groove. Fortunately, everyone will likely be back next spring to redeem themselves.

Keep Reading:

Feature: George Clinton is bringing the funk

Concert Review: George Clinton heats up cold night

Concert review: George Clinton (2007)

Concert Review: George Clinton, May 6, 2005 at the Beaumont Club

12 thoughts on “Review: George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars (2009)

    1. Thanks for reading, Michelle. The band was Lubriphonic. I thought they did a great job of mixing mid-’60s James Brown with Texas blues. It’s too bad they had so many sound issues. Hopefully they’ll be back. I could see them being a hit with the Knucklehead’s crowd.

      1. Lubriphonic would love to come back to Kansas City soon! The reference to Texas blues and James Brown is not quite accurate though. We come from the Chicago soul and funk tradition. Come out to another show sometime. We will get the sound right. We like to call ourselves a “Horny Rock Band”.

        Lube

  1. “Unfortunately, Friday night’s two-and-a-half-hour set could never build momentum and was capsized by too many limp numbers”

    I have to totally disagree with you Joel. Everybody that I know that went to the show enjoyed it from start to finish. With a killer guitar assault at the end on Funkadelic’s Soul Mate.

    Kirk

    1. Kirk,
      Thanks for reading. I’m glad you enjoyed the show. You must have been in the mass of people dancing their tails off up near the stage. There was a true party happening up there. Unfortunately, that was the only part of the lawn that danced and remained throughout the night. As I mention in the review, the overall crowd started to thin during “Maggot Brain,” and drained in earnest during “Bounce 2 This.”
      I don’t think anyone up near the stage noticed or cared, though. They were at the epicenter of euphoria. I’m glad you were there and had a great time.
      Thanks again for reading.

  2. We just saw George Clinton and the PFunk last week. This was our second GC show.

    I’ve noticed that half of the crowd never leaves the dance party from beginning to end, and the other half leaves mid-show. I think this is the difference between people who really appreciate the dynamics of a GC show vs. the people who want to hear a greatest hits show.

    GC has never played a traditional show. He’s always had theatrics. In fact, his shows are watered down compared to what he used to do in the 70s. Geez, he keeps his clothes on now!!!

    PSA: Don’t go to GC expecting to hear him bust out hit after hit after hit. If you like that, go purchase his albums and stay home. Be prepared to hear extended versions of his songs with a constant stream of artists (new and old). Be prepared to lose your mind to the steady flow of funk. Get with the program and lose your Sir Nose attitude!

    One love, PFunk

    1. Thanks for reading, PFunk.
      I’ve seen George Clinton and P-Funk multiple times – your assessment is spot-on. Clinton’s catalog is rich enough that he could forgo the hits altogether and still come up with a stunning set. That said, I think some of his jams tend to ramble. I’d rather have a tight 2-hour, 30-minute set than a sprawling 3-hour, 15-minute one, but at this point Clinton has earned the right to do whatever he wants, and I will gladly enjoy it.

  3. Just saw GC at the Paradiso Amsterdam, one of the most beautiful concert halls in the world, as it is an old church converted into a stage. I watched most of the show from the top on the second floor, and saw nobody leave, the crowd was dancing from start to end, four hours after.
    The band then stayed in town, playing various jam sessions. I have to say this is the best band I saw, including Santana, Zappa, Pink Floyd, Stones, War and the Stone Family, BB King, etc etc etc.
    Putting Maggot Brain in the beginning must have helped. Or the KC people are lamers, too tired to dance except for deejay shit.

  4. I agree with Joel – just saw GC at Yoshi’s in SF, and what a disappointment. I stated in another review that it was like going to a club and listening to a cover band perform a loose jam for over two hours. Let’s face it, their best days are behind them, so people come to hear the hits – not just improvision and experimentation. I suspect the people who remained were the ones who shared the pipe with GC and crew on stage – and by the end of the show, there were fewer band members than audience members at the microphones. I did not pay for to see the fans perform – and asked for my money back. I’ve seen GC and the P-Funk before, and this was a show for suckers. Pitiful part is, it was exactly as you reviewed – and it’s been more than a year.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.