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George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic review – fabulous fusions on farewell tour
Kentish Town Forum, London At 81, Clinton occasionally needs to sit down, but his band more than carry him with musicianship that straddles acid-rock, jazz and more
K een-eyed observers will note that this is not George Clinton’s first farewell tour: he was supposed to quit the road in 2018, which, at the time, he said was “part of a plan” he had conceived several years previously. Said plan has clearly been redrawn. A few weeks shy of his 81st birthday, Clinton is on the stage again, clad in sequinned trousers, a sailor’s hat with a huge eye on it and something that looks like an ancient Egyptian collar made out of holographic material – an outfit that may well constitute George Clinton’s idea of dressing down in a manner befitting his advanced years.
His role in live shows has diminished over time, although it’s still more than you suspect your average octogenarian could muster: when he’s not adding vocal interjections, dancing or beckoning for more applause, he retreats to a seat at the rear of the stage.
You could never accuse the current incarnation of Parliament-Funkadelic of not compensating. The band is still as gleefully overstaffed as at their 1970s height – at points there are eight vocalists performing at once – and Clinton presides over a kind of barely-controlled chaos: musicians wander on and off stage, swapping instruments and roles. At one point, a singer reappears both wielding a guitar and stripped to his underpants. They sound fantastic, fusing together what are effectively Parliament-Funkadelic’s greatest hits – Up for the Down Stroke, One Nation Under a Groove, Flashlight – into sprawling medleys that devolve into lengthy jams.
These underline what a broad musical universe Clinton’s brand of funk was. Michael Hampton, who was a 17-year-old prodigy, Kidd Funkadelic, when he first joined Clinton in 1975, delivers stinging acid-rock guitar solos. Greg Thomas’s sax and Greg Boyer’s trombone are audibly informed by jazz – during one solo Boyer quotes from John Coltrane’s A Love Supreme, and during a lengthy (Not Just) Knee Deep, Thomas leads the audience in a scat-singing call-and-response derived from Cab Calloway.
As always in the P-Funk universe, the sublime happily co-exists with the ridiculous, both on stage and in the audience, where a gentleman who looks like he could conceivably be a bank manager sports a homemade T-shirt bearing the title of Funkadelic’s 1975 song No Head, No Backstage Pass. From his back seat, Clinton wears a broad grin: a patriarch of misrule to the end.
George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic are on tour in the UK until 28 May.
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George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic review, Los Angeles: A fabulous farewell from funk great
As his globe-hopping goodbye tour nears its climax, 81-year-old clinton is still causing chaos while enjoying his victory lap, article bookmarked.
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George Clinton performing in New York in 2017
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Dr Funkenstein has no shoes. Onstage at the YouTube Theater in Inglewood , Los Angeles, 81-year-old funk trailblazer George Clinton looks so comfortable strolling around in bare feet that he could be in his living room at home. The rest of his outfit is considerably less understated: a sea captain’s hat covered in pearls and bedazzled robes give him the appearance of a human glitter ball, which isn’t entirely inaccurate.
It’s now 66 years since Clinton formed doo-wop group The Parliaments in the back room of a barber shop in Plainfield, New Jersey. After a spell as a staff songwriter for Motown in the Sixties, Clinton went on to give the sound of funk a revolutionary, acid-drenched makeover in the Seventies with his twin groups Parliament and Funkadelic. Incorporating psychedelic jazz, Detroit punk and Jimi Hendrix-style guitar pyrotechnics, Clinton’s brand of P-Funk produced a string of huge hits that continue to be heavily sampled by pop and hip-hop producers to this day. Meanwhile, his bands’ theatrical, science fiction-influenced live shows became the stuff of legend. The P-Funk Mothership, a UFO stage prop used in stadium concerts during the Seventies, is now preserved for posterity at Washington DC’s Smithsonian National Museum of African American History and Culture.
There may not be a shiny metallic spaceship on stage with him on this farewell tour, but Clinton still takes evident delight in delivering the unexpected. He first appears onstage well before his bands do, sneaking out to surprise support act Blu Eye Extinction’s soprano and keyboardist Constance Hauman. When Clinton next appears, his eight-piece backing band are in full swing and he’s leading out an equal number of backing singers like a P-Funk Pied Piper. This vast, sprawling band produces a kind of chaos onstage: musicians switch instruments with casual insouciance, while at times there literally don’t seem to be enough working microphones to pass around all the vocalists.
The maelstrom of music that flows forth from this collective is thrilling, and the audience is soon up on its feet doing their best to raise the roof of the 6,000-seater venue. Clinton himself is sometimes overwhelmed by it all, taking moments to sit and spin on a short black office chair placed at centre stage, but his broad grin of pride and delight remains a constant.
Many of the band members are second or even third-generation Parliament-Funkadelic musicians. Guitarist Garrett Shider, wearing a pair of silver angel wings, takes centre stage during an early high point of the set to remind the audience: “We are still… one nation under a groove.” His father Garry Shider was the longtime diaper-wearing musical director of Parliament-Funkadelic who died of cancer in 2010.
Other musicians have been with Clinton even longer. The band leader still refers to guitarist Michael Hampton as “Kidd Funkadelic” even now he’s reached the venerable age of 65. Hampton first joined up in 1974, replacing the legendary Funkadelic guitarist Eddie Hazel after he was arrested for drug possession and assaulting an airline stewardess. Hampton first impressed Clinton by reproducing Hazel’s mind-altering “Maggot Brain” solo note-for-note, and he has a similar impact tonight by providing several face-melting solos of his own.
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With just three more dates left on Clinton’s farewell tour, this may well be his last ever stand in Los Angeles. He says so long in style: an utterly triumphant version of 1975’s “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)” bleeds into a brief reprise of “Get Off Your Ass and Jam” and a delirious rendition of 1982’s “Atomic Dog”. The crowd exalts. We wanted the funk, we needed the funk, and just as he’s been doing for a lifetime, George Clinton gave up the funk.
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LIVE REVIEW + PHOTOS: Parliament-Funkadelic, Fishbone, Blue Eye Extinction in Boston, MA (08.17.23)
- August 22, 2023
The night started out with a fairly unknown act, Blu Eye Extinction . A New York City based funk fusion band, they reminded me a bit of a young Living Colour, blending rap, funk, and a grunge like 80s/90s style rock. Lots of movement on the stage from the singers, combined with a solid horn section as well as a guitarist dressed in…trash? They left me enamored by their fresh take of the genres being presented in tonight’s concert and I look forward to taking a deeper dive into the future of their music.
Next up was Fishbone , which I must say, I was equally here to see, next to P-funk. Fishbone’s consistent energy has always kept me coming to their shows and their sets never disappoint.
After opening with a new track “Estranged Fruit” from their latest EP, they jumped right into the classics like “Sunless Saturday”, “Bonin in the Boneyard” (featuring Norwood Fisher’s best bass lines out of their song catalogue), and “Cholly”. They followed that with their best new tune “All We Have is Now”, which any fan and listener can relate to. A set of theirs wouldn’t’ be complete without “Alcoholic”, “Skankin’ to the Beat” and “Party at Ground Zero”. The singer Angelo Moore (I’m going to officially declare him the hardest working man in showbusiness now that James Brown has passed) always shows up with fun and different outfits, which definitely add to the band’s quirky upbeat nature as well as inhuman levels of energy on stage. For a band that started in 1979, it’s incredible how they’ve stayed forever youthful and relevant. I highly recommend catching one of their shows in the near future. FYI, they have an upcoming show November 17, with GZA at the Palladium in Worcester, MA.
George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic kept the energy train rolling with quite the on-stage party. They took the audience on an electrifying journey through time and sound at MGM Fenway in Boston. With a setlist that blended the best of Funkadelic and Parliament classics, as well as a few surprising covers, the night became a cosmic explosion of groove, energy, and undeniable funk.
Let it be known that although 16 members, which is a damn good amount, of this band were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, George Clinton and Michael Hampton are the only original members to appear on stage for this tour. The band was mostly comprised of grandsons and granddaughters of original band members and a generally younger collection of performers. I have seen this group play 4 times in the past (the first in 2008 or so), and of these times, this was the most involved I have seen Clinton be in a performance. I have heard he was sick for a while and mostly served as a side-of-stage conductor of sorts but seemed back to his roots, singing through songs he hadn’t for (what seemed like) ages.
As the band launched into “Cosmic Slop,” the unmistakable blend of rock and funk, showcased the band’s ability to merge genres seamlessly. “Nappy Dugout” and “Pole Power” delivered a one-two punch of nostalgia, harking back to the heyday of Funkadelic. The guitar riffs intertwined with the rhythm section, creating a sonic landscape that transported the audience to the heart of funk’s roots.
The tempo kicked up several notches with “Get Off Your Ass and Jam.” The funky basslines and infectious rhythm had the crowd moving in unison, a testament to the band’s ability to create music that’s not just heard but felt deep within the soul. Clinton may not have stayed on his feet the whole show, but he certainly made a point to be the ever-beating heart of the night, helping songs launch into each new direction.
“P. Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up)” continued the journey with its infectious hooks and infectious melodies. The groove was unrelenting, solidifying Clinton’s status as a funk icon. A surprise twist came with the cover of “Jump Around” by House of Pain, which injected a modern energy into the setlist and had the crowd bouncing to the beat. “I Got a Thing, You Got a Thing, Everybody’s Got a Thing” was a reminder of the Funkadelic philosophy, drawing the audience into a playful exchange of energy between the stage and the theater space.
The emotional climax of the night arrived with “Maggot Brain”. For this haunting guitar solo, the band brought out one of their original guitarists Michael Hampton (not sure where he was hiding the first two thirds of the set). It carried the audience on a musical odyssey of raw emotion and introspection, captivating even the most casual listener with its soul stirring beauty. When their first guitarist, Eddie Hazel, left the band, Hampton had impressed Clinton by performing a note-for-note rendition of Hazel’s ten-minute run.
“Up for the Down Stroke” and “Motor-Booty Affair” continued to fuel the funk fire, with the crowd’s energy reaching new heights. But it was the explosive “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)” that brought the house down.
George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic’s performance was a masterclass in funk music, effortlessly blending the past, present, and future of the genre. With so many people on stage, they showed Boston what a true funk party could be. The number of performers sharing the vocals throughout the set was a testament to carrying this brands flame while providing the audience with a ferocious mix of musical generas. “Once upon a time called now”, Clinton’s larger-than-life presence and ever glowing smile proved the power of funk was stronger than ever.
Photos – Parliament-Funkadelic, Fishbone, Blu Eye Extinction at MGM Music Hall on August 17th:
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Concert Review: Parliament Funkadelic (Ritz Raleigh)
BY MARK DOLEJS George Clinton brought the funk to the Ritz Raleigh last month as part of Parliament Funkadelic’s Just For The Funk Of It...
MARK DOLEJS Photography is an avenue that Mark Dolejs uses to learn about the people and places that cross his path. After more than 30 years as a photojournalist, Mark enjoys concert, macro, and roadside photography. Follow Mark on Instagram at @solidrockpix . Read Mark's posts here .
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Why George Clinton doesn't want Parliament Funkadelic tour to end: 'I ain't finished yet'
George Clinton is retiring from live performance.
He just can’t say when or where that final show might be.
Or even why he’d want to walk away from the fun he’s had leading the latest edition of Parliament-Funkadelic through songs as iconic as “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker),” “Flash Light” and “Get Off Your Ass and Jam” since launching a farewell tour in 2019 .
His Celebrity Theatre concert on Friday, Jan. 13, will be Clinton's third farewell to metro Phoenix.
“I had to come back to get some more,” he says. “I ain't finished yet, man.”
At 81, the legend says he plans to just keep going for now.
“I ain't gonna put no end to it,” he says. “Tell everybody, ‘Bring two booties' 'cause we up to something.”
Review: George Clinton doesn't seem ready to give up the funk on Parliament-Funkadelic farewell tour
'I love ... provoking other people to get down'
The best part of touring at this point is “just giving up the funk,” he says. “Seeing people indulge in it. Just getting everyone together on the one. I love inciting other people into doing it, provoking other people to get down.”
He does his best to keep the concerts as spontaneous as possible, calling out songs on the fly.
“When I look at the audience, I can pretty much read who's out there and what's the predominant demographic,” Clinton says.
“What age bracket? What nationality? How tall? I have to read my audience ‘cause we appeal to everybody and on any given night, you'll have more of this than that.”
How tall, though?
“Yeah, I was just joking,” he says with a laugh. “How tall or short they are. But like I said, I have to read a lot of stuff. What country we in sometimes. There's all different types of people. What part of the neighborhood we go into in any given city. We can play on all sides of town and we pretty much have fans everywhere. So we have to know where we at.”
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New sounds from 'the third generation of P-Funk'
You can expect to hear such classics as “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)” and “Atomic Dog.” But they’ve also been working in highlights of two relatively recent albums — “Medicaid Fraud Dog,” a Parliament album released in 2018, and “First Ya Gotta Shake the Gate,” a Funkadelic effort from 2014.
“We've got younger generations,” Clinton says. “We got the TikTok and, you know, the internet crew that know those new songs.”
Clinton’s grandkids tend to take the spotlight on the newer songs.
“That's the third generation of P-Funk,” Clinton says. “The last album we did, we featured them doing a lot of stuff on that. They got that energy. And they've got their own followings now. So that's working. But I won't get out of the way. I just want to hang around with them.”
They’ve got new music set to drop “toward the end of the year, in September or so,” Clinton says.
He’s not at liberty to talk about it yet.
"But we doing a lot of collabs and everything,” he says.
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The doo-wop roots of Parliament Funkadelic in a New Jersey barbershop
Clinton grew up in Plainfield, New Jersey, forming a doo-wop group he called the Parliaments (after the cigarette brand) in the backroom of a barbershop.
“We started in the '50s, so we was around for the birth of rock 'n' roll,” Clinton says. “Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers was the one that incited me to want to do it. The Spaniels, the Flamingos, all that stuff.”
By the early ‘60s, he’d landed a job writing songs and producing other artists at Jobete, Motown’s publishing arm, and started making weekly trips to work at Hitsville U.S.A. in Detroit.
“That was the best dream in the world to me,” Clinton says.
“Working at Motown and Jobete was the king of the hill at that time, even though we weren't ready to be on the label because we weren't in Detroit. We thought we were the best thing to represent Motown in New York. But it took them longer to get it together.”
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When the Parliaments 'got a hit record'
Eventually, Clinton hooked up with a rival Detroit label, Revilot Records.
“And we got a hit record,” he says.
Released in 1967 as the Parliaments (despite the fact that Clinton recorded the single with session musicians and singers when his bandmates couldn’t make it to Detroit for the recording date), “(I Wanna) Testify” hit No. 3 on Billboard’s R&B charts, No. 20 on the pop charts.
“That was our start,” Clinton says.
Their plans for world domination hit a snag, though, when the label filed for bankruptcy and the Parliaments lost the right to use their own name.
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The birth of Funkadelic
That’s when Clinton, the other four singers who made up the Parliaments and the backing musicians they’d assembled changed their name to Funkadelic to reflect the brand of heavy psychedelic funk and soul they’d started playing.
“We played like Jimi Hendrix and the rock 'n' rollers,” Clinton says. “But we was out of Motown. So we had Temptations ambitions and we knew how to record like Motown — straight, clean records, precise. And then we learned how to record loud psychedelic feedback and just experiment.”
Funkadelic’s self-titled debut arrived in early 1970 on Westbound Records.
“We had a sound nobody had,” Clinton says, “which was underground R&B.”
Recording Parliament and Funkadelic at the same time
A few months later, Clinton and his bandmates launched a second project, Parliament, releasing “Osmium” on Invictus Records.
Each group was designed to have its own distinct approach, with Funkadelic favoring a more experimental, psychedelic energy and Parliament going for a slicker R&B vibe, especially after bassist Bootsy Collins recruited Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker of the JB’s, James Brown’s legendary backing band, on horns.
“And then, that was a brand new thing,” Clinton says.
“With Fred Wesley and Bernie Worrell, two good arrangers, we were able to arrange music, like ‘Mothership' and ‘Funkentelechy’ that was R&B spiced up with artsy-fartsy jazz musicians but still grooving and storytelling. You know, Dr. Funkenstein.”
At first, it was the same 10 people in both groups. Those lineups evolved over time, but regardless of who appeared on which group's albums, they toured together as Parliament-Funkadelic or P-Funk.
The P-Funk Mothership Connection
Their tours grew more outrageous and theatrical as they became more famous, culminating in the introduction of the P-Funk Mothership, a spaceship that would land on stage on the massively successful P-Funk Earth Tour, with Clinton emerging as his alter ego, Dr. Funkenstein.
Clinton figures it was Pink Floyd that inspired him to push the envelope in terms of how the music was presented live.
"I wanted to be not just a group of singers," Clinton says. "I wanted it to be a thang. And not just any thang. I wanted it to be the biggest one ever."
By that point, Parliament had signed to Casablanca Records, so Clinton reached out to the head of the label, Neil Bogart.
"I knew Neil Bogart could promote things out the planet," Clinton says. "So I said, 'Get a spaceship.' I knew I could have that big production and a label that would back us. And we could deliver the music. That's what happened. And then we was able to go underwater with "Motor-Booty."
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On the road to 'Flash Light': 'I didn't want to have to chase a 45'
Clinton wasn’t worried about either project having hits.
“My thing was I didn't want to have to chase a 45 trying to get a hit record,” he says. “The groups that I liked best was on underground radio. I wanted to do albums. I didn't want to do singles, 'cause that means you got to have a hit bigger than the last one every time or the interpretation is you're out of here.”
A fan base built on albums tends to stick around.
“Those people stay with you forever,” Clinton says.
Despite that focus on the album format, both groups had their share of hits.
“You try not to be commercial but you was glad when you got a hit record on your own terms,” Clinton says.
“When I got a hit record with 'Knee Deep,' it was 15 minutes. I never thought that would be on no radio. And then in Detroit, they had this station that played it three times in a row. That was this guy's whole show almost. Forty-five minutes of ‘Knee Deep.’”
Funkadelic topped the R&B charts twice — with the anthemic “One Nation Under a Groove,” which also peaked at No. 28 on Billboard’s Hot 100, and “(Not Just) Knee Deep.” Parliament crossed over with two massive hits that went Top 20 on the Hot 100 — “Tear the Roof Off the Sucker (Give Up the Funk)” and “Flash Light.”
To Clinton’s ears, “One Nation Under a Groove” could just as easily have gone to Parliament. And there are plenty of other occasions where that may have happened.
“By the time we got to ‘Atomic Dog,’ which was me personally, that could've been either one — a Parliament or Funkadelic song,” Clinton says, with a laugh. “It could have easily been Funkadelic because it’s so weird and so different."
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'We made sure we was part of the next generation'
Regardless of which group is working on a record, Clinton likes to mix in elements of all the different styles that spoke to him along the way, from the earliest doo-wop to the newest hip-hop.
“I'm not married to none of it,” Clinton says. “Whatever is happening, I'm gonna be a part of it. Whatever the new scene is, quick.”
When he hears something that he doesn’t like? He takes a closer listen.
“The way I figured it out is when it get on my nerves, that must be the new music. So I rush to the (expletive) that get on my nerves real quick, because the easiest way to get old is to deny it because it gets on your nerves. That ain't a good reason to let it go. Give yourself a chance and you'll dance to it.”
He was thrilled when hip-hop artists started sampling his music.
“That was heaven sent,” he says. “You know, styles have to change 'cause generations change. When hip-hop came along and they started sampling, they made funk be the DNA for the next generation. So we had to figure out a way to stay around and not be so old-school that we out of here. You just have to learn to dance. It's all the funk. And when I realized that was happening, we made sure we was part of the next generation.”
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George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic
When: 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 13.
Where: Celebrity Theatre, 440 N. 32nd St., Phoenix.
Details: 602-267-1600, celebritytheatre.com .
Order by phone:
An independent show guide not a venue or show. All tickets 100% guaranteed, some are resale, prices may be above face value. We're an independent show guide not a venue or show. We sell primary, discount and resale tickets, all 100% guaranteed prices may be above face value. We are an independent show guide not a venue or show. We sell primary, discount and resale tickets, all 100% guaranteed and they may be priced above or below face value.
George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic Reviews
Soul Rnb Concerts
Number of reviews: 4
Page: 1 All
UNSUNG MUSICAL HERO
Well it would be an understatement to say that George Clinton and the gang should be place next to or above the Beetles and all the other bands.Everyone from Prince and every black/white rock band learned from them. The best band to ever( Funkadelic/ Parliament to play funk and rock at the same time.
Do not miss the Mother Ship. Make your Funk the P Funk!
FOUR BECAUSE FISHBONE WAS GREAT!!! 3 FOR PARLIAMENT
I agree with Deeilray, previous reviewer. Parliament had too many people clumsily running around the stage when the real musicians were playing. What was that? Also, not enuf of GC’s music. Most of all, the smoking on stage (passing it around) by everyone it seemed was not good. Does anyone remember the RI Club fire. I saw the pianist take a hit or two, threw it on the floor and stamped it with his foot. I wonder if he really got it out - as he was playing. Not cool. We are not in high school anymore. Fishbone was excellent! Never heard of them but will be looking for them from now on! By the way, the musicians actually playing instruments in both bands were sublime! A treat to hear!
PARLIAMENT NO LONGER EXISTS
Last night's show was a perfect example of when to let something go. My kid absolutely did not purchase tickets as a gift for me to see the sad watered down version of my favorite funk icon. I had to keep reminding myself that George is 82 years old and there are no remaining original members of Parliament Funkadelic. He is not the psychedelic, wild haired icon we remember. He is a really cute chubby bald grandpa. 5 minutes of Cosmic Slop, 3 minutes of Atomic Dog and 2 minutes of Flashlight then a plethora of music from other groups. George has so much music. His current band members are great artists individually but have NO understanding of ONE BAND, ONE SOUND. George did most of the show from a chair, understandable he's 82. There was absolutely no stage etiquette. The dancers were just everywhere doing whatever. People who were not dancers or part of the band all over the stage. Definitely a hot UNFUNKY mess. I will still love my memories of George but Parliament is gone.
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Welcome back to ‘know your entertainers’, remembering soul music vocalist and retired lieutenant stephen odle, review: indiana juneteenth freedom music festival.
In 2019, George Clinton announced that he was retiring from the stage. Parliament-Funkadelic’s farewell tour ended in early 2020, just before the COVID-19 pandemic hit the United States. But at some point during the COVID-19 shutdown, Clinton had a change of heart. In March of 2022, Clinton announced that his beloved P-Funk crew would return to the road.
Parliament-Funkadelic’s “One Nation Under A Groove” tour arrived in Indianapolis on June 25 at Butler’s Clowes Memorial Hall. Any fears that the band might be rusty from sitting the last couple years out were instantly dispelled. Clinton and his crew hit the stage with a vengeance. After warming things up with some newer material, Clinton led the band through a jubilant setlist of fan favorites, including “Flashlight,” “(Not Just) Knee Deep,” “One Nation Under A Groove,” “Cosmic Slop” and “Mothership Connection (Star Child).” The near-capacity audience was on its feet throughout the entire performance.
The concert was a powerful reminder of Clinton’s unique artistic genius, as the band effortlessly synthesized the history of African-American music into a cohesive whole, touching on jazz, gospel, soul, hip-hop and rock and roll.
There’s some ambiguity as to whether the current P-Funk tour will be the group’s last. Clinton is currently 80 years old, so it’s reasonable to question how much longer he can comfortably withstand the rigors of life on the road. With that possibility in mind, it’s a good time to look back at a few highlights from Parliament-Funkadelic’s long history in Naptown.
Clinton made his first appearance in Indianapolis on Nov. 19, 1967, at the Indiana State Fairgrounds’ Coliseum. His group, The Parliaments, had just scored its first hit with “(I Wanna) Testify.” The Parliaments appeared at the Coliseum as part of a package tour that featured the pioneering comedian Moms Mabley as headliner.
Clinton had been using the Parliaments name since 1956. He formed the group as a teenager in Plainfield, New Jersey. The original Parliaments specialized in doo-wop music and cut its first single, “Poor Willie,” in 1959. The modern version of Parliament, and its spin-off group, Funkadelic, started taking shape in the late 1960s. By the early 1970s Parliament-Funkadelic had perfected its innovative mix of psychedelic rock and funky soul music.
The full Parliament-Funkadelic collective made its first stop in Indianapolis on July 29, 1971, at the legendary 20 Grand Club, formerly located at the intersection of 34th and Illinois streets. Clinton and P-Funk were booked for a three-night stand at 20 Grand, including a special all-ages Saturday matinee for teenagers.
At that time, 20 Grand was arguably the hottest club in Naptown. It featured some of the biggest acts in soul music, including The O’Jays, Eddie Kendricks, David Ruffin, The Ohio Players, Bobby Womack, Millie Jackson, Rufus Thomas, Gene Chandler, and others. The 20 Grand also hosted Indianapolis’ first Player’s Ball, and a Miss Black Indianapolis pageant.
Clinton’s next Indianapolis appearance ranks as one of the most unique. Just a year after releasing its psychedelic magnum opus, “Maggot Brain,” in 1972, Parliament-Funkadelic was booked for a July 15 date at the Walker Theatre. That’s right, Clinton and the P-Funk crew performed on Indiana Avenue at the height of its psychedelic glory.
During a brief interview before the concert at Clowes, I asked Clinton if he recalled performing at the historic Avenue venue. “I don’t know,” Clinton laughed. “I was out of my mind back then. If you remember, you weren’t there.”
By the mid-‘70s, P-Funk had amassed a fanatic cult audience. As the band’s fan base grew, so did the size of the venues the group played. From the mid-‘70s to the early ‘80s, P-Funk made several stops at newly opened downtown facilities like the convention center and Market Square Arena.
It was a March 16, 1978, date at Market Square Arena that prompted P-Funk’s most unusual Indianapolis performance. The concert was co-sponsored by Jesse Jackson’s Operation PUSH, in an effort to promote the organization’s Excel scholarship program. The promotional campaign included a contest — Parliament-Funkadelic would play a concert for the Indianapolis high school that collected the most votes.
On the afternoon of March 15, Parliament-Funkadelic assembled in the gym of Broad Ripple High School to perform for the students. I asked Clinton about the concert during a 2016 interview. “We tore the joint up,” he recalled. “The teachers were out there dancing just like the kids.”
The late 1970s were undoubtedly the high point in Parliament-Funkadelic’s history as a live band. These were no ordinary concerts. In 1976, Clinton reimagined the group’s live show as a surrealistic space opera, featuring elaborate stage props like the iconic Mothership, a massive spaceship that descended onstage during performances.
The Mothership, and other legendary P-Funk stage props, were fabricated by Indianapolis’ own Tom Battista. Today, Battista is known locally as the restaurateur behind popular eateries like Bluebeard. But in the mid-‘70s, Battista was working as a stagehand and carpenter.
A replica of the original Mothership is on display at the Smithsonian’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington, D.C. Sadly, the original was sent to a scrapyard in the early ‘80s. But a smaller version that Battista fabricated, known as the Baby Mothership, is on display here in Indianapolis. You can view the Baby Mothership, and other original P-Funk props, at the Museum of Psychphonics in Fountain Square.
In 2016, I arranged for Clinton to visit the Museum of Psychphonics. I asked what his thoughts were on viewing the exhibit. “It’s like visiting one of my children that I haven’t seen in a long time,” Clinton laughed.
If the concert at Clowes Hall was indeed Parliament-Funkadelic’s last in the city, Clinton has certainly left behind a substantial history in Indianapolis. I have no doubt that tales of P-Funk’s exploits in Naptown will remain part of the local music lore for many years to come.
Kyle Long is a DJ and hosts two radio shows, “Cultural Manifesto” and “Echoes of Indiana Avenue,” on WFYI. Connect with him on Twitter @djkylelong.
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Gallery: George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic – Seattle, Wa – 30.07.23
George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic this past Sunday night brought the “Just for the Funk of It!” tour to the historic Paramount Theatre in Seattle Washington. The packed theatre was on their feet dancing from the moment George Clinton lead a line of Parliament Funkadelic members to the stage. It was sure to be a memorable evening to many generation of fans in attendance to party with P-Funk .
You will want to be sure to catch George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic on tour when they come through your town. They are currently touring the United States for the remainder of 2023, a full list of upcoming dates and tickets can be found via George Clinton’s website .
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Resident of the Pacific Northwest in the United States. Ever since my first concert in 2004 (Ozzfest) when I was 14 I have been taking pictures. Those days were on a disposable film camera. Currently shooting with a Sony a7IV. My love for music has no bounds across many genres. Catch me at a local punk show or a Garth Brooks stadium concert.
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