Live Music + Gig Reviews

George Clinton @ Royal Festival Hall, London

21 June 2008

It’s quite hard to know where to begin with this gig.

The James Brown tribute bit in the middle? Thebreak-dancer dressed like a pimped-out polar bear doing handstands on a speaker stand 12 feetfrom the ground? The female vocalist doing Saturday Night Fever Moves in an all-in-one jumpsuit onroller skates? Or maybe the bassist in a nappy?

Yep, a nappy. Perhaps it would be best to start with the man himself. George Clinton, the 66-year-old corn-rowed forefather of funk.

Although that wouldn’t, in the context of things, be veryaccurate: Gorgeous George didn’t even shuffle on stage until nigh-on an hour had passed.

Leaving us in the capable hands of his P-Funk Allstars to help warm us up. To help us get down withour bad self. From the windows, to the walls, till the sweat drips down our ba… You get the idea.

And hey, it was funky, if predictably self-indulgent. Oh they had the strut, they had the style, butafter the fourth or fifth minute of the fifth or sixth saxophone solo, even the hardest of hipsbegan to slow their grind.

But then, Lazarus like, George appeared, dressed like Special Forces at a Grateful Dead gig, and thewhole thing ratcheted up several levels. The groove deepened and darkened and the whole thing gained afocal point in Clinton, and that shrill piercing cry.

My God, George Clinton is a funky man. A very, very funky man. An overwhelmingly funky man. Surehe’s elderly enough to ride the bus for free, and he is prone to speaking very passionately aboutnothing particularly cohesive, but still, has there ever been a man more slavishly devoted to thefunk than he?

So devoted that nothing as pedestrian as a curfew was going to stop him. After a set nudging threehours it was left to a panicky looking soundman to pull the plug, disconnecting the microphonewith the hour well past 11, leaving the camouflaged Clinton soundlessly mouthing to pretty much himself.

Even then as plaudits were taken, the cry continued. “We! Want! The FUNK!” Even after two footballmatches worth of hot funk injection, delivered right to the solar plexus of all concerned.

There were some songs in there somewhere. Cosmic Slut was the best of the pre-Clinton numbers led bythe aforementioned nappy-clad Garry “Starchild” Shider. One Nation Under A Groove was immense, ifbarely distinguishable under the various expressionist swirls the assembled members painted over thetop, but honestly, the funk cares not for your pre-defined song boundaries, the funk will alwaysescape. The funk will not stop.

Yes, it may have tried your patience at times. Yeah several supernova were born and died during oneof the more over-the-top guitar solos. But hey. That’s funk. As the man said, free your mind, andyour ass will surely follow. And it’s hard to argue with 4,000 asses.

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George Clinton @ Royal Festival Hall, London