George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic
Saturday 18th April
O2 Academy Leeds
Walking past the O2 Academy on a quiet Saturday evening it was hard to believe what was going on behind closed doors. One of the most influential artists in music today, George Clinton was giving one of the best shows going with his two infamous groups Parliament and Funkadelic. There was a pre-warning, due to a 10 o’clock curfew, George Clinton was going to start early as he is known to play from anywhere between 1.5-2.5 hours. Sure enough when I arrived at twenty to 8 the show was well under way and unlike most gigs I’ve been to where it takes a couple of hours for the audience to loosen up waiting for their drinks to kick in, the crowd were already going mad.
Clinton, now 73 showed no sign of letting up. Wearing a substantially modest grey suit, (compared with some others around him) with red tie and a straw hat, Clinton commanded the stage. Already, George showcased the excellence of the 15+ people surrounding him. Being relatively unknown to his music I was not sure what to expect. I was in the building no longer than 5 minutes when a saxophone solo blew everyone away, followed by an equally matched guitar solo. It was here I had an idea of how the night would play out. Each song was going to be as good as the last.
Tunes like “Get Off Your Ass and Jam” and “Cosmic Slop” were instant crowd pleasers, both ending on a massive climax before melting into the next classic. While performing “I Bet You”, (a track from the first Funkadelic record and re-working of a song from an earlier Clinton project “The Parliaments”) a man came on the stage, wearing a white fur jacket, fur trousers, fur hat and a giant prosthetic nose. His belt read “NOSE”, as if this the most bizarre item of clothing he had on. Shortly after he came on stage he took of his jacket (and nose) and began body popping, did a headstand on a nearby speaker and at one point, sandwiched woman on stage with George Clinton himself.
George didn’t shy away from getting down either when, after lending his mic to a fantastic trumpet solo, displayed the most movement I’ve ever seen from someone over the retirement age. It was no surprise that after this he had to sit down while the band took over duties. Each track performed lasted up to 10 minutes at a time which gave the performers plenty of opportunity to show the crowd what they could do.
At one point, I clocked a sample used in Snoop Dogg’s first album, Doggystyle and another in “Me Myself and I” from De La Soul’s legendary first album 3 Feet High and Rising. It was clear how much of an influence Clinton’s music has had on modern rap and hip-hop and how much of a debt the genre owes to him.
The last hour began with most of the band going off stage, where Clinton gave a monologue before allowing the stripped down band to give an incredible performance with one of the greatest guitar solos I’ve ever heard. After one more sit down, the whole band came back on stage and performed “Give Up The Funk”, where everyone was shouting “We Want The Funk!” as loud as they possibly could, Clinton putting his hands to his ears telling us all to get louder. Jumping all over the stage, screaming into his mic, George definitely owned the crowd. After one of the longest and most exciting build ups I’ve heard from a band they ended with “One Nation Under A Groove”. This last tune provided solos from the entire band and lasted so long the lights had to be turned on to let Clinton know he had past his curfew.
Overall, George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic was simply one of the best shows I have ever seen; the sheer level of talent from the whole group was really something special. It’s not every day you get the chance to see such a legend in the flesh and it will be treasured.
Words by Stephen Daniels
Images courtesy of Neil Chapman