If James Brown is considered as the Godfather of Soul, then surely George Clinton should be known as the great grandfather of the funk. With a career spanning multiple generations and an unrivalled influence within the confines of funk, soul, hip-hop and rock as well as non-musical movements such as Afro-Futurism, the legacy of Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic flows hot through the lifeblood of music as we know it today.
For this reason, a Parliament-Funkadelic show is always considered a special, if not sacred, show – a psychedelic celebration of song, dance and uncapped blackness. However, last night was an extra special affair, with Clinton and his P-Funk gang performing their last ever show in Australia before retiring from touring. From the get-go, it was clear the band held this sentiment just as strong as the audience, with the band launching their set with a menacing instrumental jam (the first of many throughout the night) led by guitarist Blackbyrd McKnight. After being joined onstage by a posse of backup singers, dancers and hype men and women of the highest caliber, Clinton himself sauntered into the party to a wave of applause as the band kicked into the head-banging psych jam of Funkadelic’s Maggot Brain cut ‘Super Stupid.’
With such a frenzy of sound and colour onstage, it was easy to lose sight of Clinton throughout the night, however the 77 year old impresario certainly made his presence known. Throughout the band’s scorching rendition of ‘Cosmic Slop,’ Clinton prowled across all flanks of the stage with microphone in hand, hyping each instrumentalists as they took turns to solo throughout the track. After blazing through the psychedelic grooves of Funkadelic’s early ‘70s output, the ensemble visited P-Funk’s 2014 comeback First Ya Gotta Shake the Gate with a rendition of ‘Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard On You?,’ with Clinton’s grandson Tra’zae delivering Ice Cube and Kendrick Lamar’s rapped verses with absolute precision.
Upon concluding ‘Ain’t That Funkin’...’ with a lung-busting saxophone solo courtesy of Gregory Thomas, Clinton took a breather on a conveniently placed office chair in front of the drum riser, fist pumping as he swung in his seat. However, it wasn’t long until Clinton again bounded up again to direct the bounce of the Forum to Parliament’s 1977 dancefloor burner ‘Flashlight,’ with keyboardist Daniel Bedrosian delivering a faithful rendition of Bernie Worrell’s iconic synth bass on his own MiniMoog. After seguing into a notably slower-yet-all-the-groovier rendition of ‘One Nation Under A Groove,’ each of the female backing singers took their moment in the limelight with a sultry RnB slow jam before Tra’zae and co. flexed their own talents with a hard-knocking trap number.
As the energy of the crowd began to ebb around the 90 minute mark of the show, the opening arpeggio to the epic shredfest of ‘Maggot Brain’ kicked the Forum back into overdrive. However, when it came time for McKnight to let loose with the iconic guitar solo, his tone was muddy and his playing unnecessarily showy, with the performance lacking the emotive genius of Eddie Hazel’s original playing for the most part. Nevertheless, the familiarity of ‘Maggot Brain’ got the crowd perked up for the Parliament classic ‘P-Funk (Wants To Get Funked Up),’ which saw guitarist Garret Shidder reprising his role of his father Gary as the Star Child in the irresistibly funky spoken word introduction.
Despite the night coming to an end after a mammoth two and a half hour set, Clinton and co. made it certain they were going out with a bang with the one two punch of ‘Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker)’ and ‘Atomic Dog,’ the latter seeing most of the front row join the band onstage for one final dance party. As Clinton slunk offstage with his fist held high and the crowd’s funky reverie was brought to a sudden, shambolic end, it all seemed like an apt finale for one of funk’s most beloved figures.