Fans both young and old packed Cornerstone on Feb.18, prepared for George Clinton and his Parliament-Funkadelic band to give them a groovy night of pure, unbridled funk. Pioneering funk, R&B and soul in the 1960s and 1970s, Clinton has become a pop culture icon and psychedelic guru. Now on his farewell tour, Clinton, at 78, is winding down but refusing to go out without a bang.
“We want the funk,” chanted the sea of people wearing Parliament memorabilia when Clinton hadn’t manifested before their eyes 30 minutes past the advertised start time of the show.
But soon after, as if answering the call, a series of rappers flooded the stage and performed one after another. While this caused some confusion among the crowd, as no openers were listed to play, it was an exciting moment of foreshadowing. The flurry of eight people dancing and prancing across the stage was later revealed to be the third generation of Parliament-Funkadelic — the children and grandchildren of Clinton and original P-Funk members.
“Here to blow the cobwebs out of your mind. … We’ll give you this last one, we’re going to tear the roof off this mother,” said a performer into the mic. The mob onstage performed P-Funk member Garrett Shider’s song, “I’m a Funkadelic,” which was a refreshing mix of rap and funk intending to modernize Parliament-Funkadelic’s traditional sound.
“Behold, for we are not of your world, but we have come to free your mind,” said a performer, just before Clinton took the stage. “Because if you free mind, your a– will follow.”
And with that, Clinton majestically presented himself to a cheering crowd. Instead of his iconic rainbow hair, Clinton appeared in a black fedora and a long, sweeping trench coat emblazoned with a map of the world. He later shed this coat to reveal a long, metallic vest. He did, however, wear his trusty pair of sunglasses in the dim venue.
Clinton wasted no time with formalities, immediately launching into a cover of the Red Hot Chili Peppers’ song, “Give It Away.” The patriarch commanded the stage, crouching down, waving his arms and singing in unison with his family. He urged the crowd members to clap their hands, which they duly did.
At any one point during the show, there were 16 people onstage, each with an essential role. And as in 1970s funk tradition, two disco balls hung on each side of the stage, bathing the venue in specks of white light. Clinton’s grandchildren each had their own solo acts as well, making their appearances in between classic songs. Various older members of Parliament-Funkadelic proved that they’ve still got it by playing extensive solos with a saxophone and guitar, keeping the audience in a trance the entire time.
The show also featured many theatrics, such as a monstrous joint being passed around between the members, including Clinton, who took a hit with a grin. While the venue didn’t seem to have a fog machine, they didn’t need one at this point anyway. During Parliament’s hit song, “Flash Light,” a dedicated fan even turned on a headlamp attached to his hat.
But the most unexpected highlight of the night was when the group covered Big Sean’s song, “I Don’t F— With You,” to which Clinton sang along word for word, “You little stupid a– b—-, I ain’t f—–’ with you.”
Although Clinton didn’t perform for the entirety of the show, he constantly showed his support for his fellow P-Funkers, often holding his mic against the guitar amplifier whenever a solo came on, somehow still the center of all focus even when he was sitting at the back of the stage. The performance seemed like it was straight out of one of Thump Records’ Old School volumes.
While Clinton didn’t tap into the same vein of Parliament-Funkadelic’s glory days, he revived the band’s sound with a modern edge. Clinton watched his next generation of wacky funk lords own the stage, all with the biggest smile plastered on his face. And though he may now have a different kind of funk, he’s still giving his dedicated as well as new fans a proper farewell.
Highlights: “Flash Light,” “I Don’t F— with You,” “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)”
Pooja Bale covers music. Contact her at [email protected].