George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic (photo: Carolyn McCoy)
Words by Carolyn McCoy
As I walk into Petaluma’s Mystic Theatre, I hear this in passing: “The Mothership has landed!” That statement pertains to the show at hand, with the master of all things funky and freaky, George Clinton and his new generation of Parliament Funkadelic. Let’s just say that the psychedelic circus has come to town with all its wacky, high-energy glory, and I was there to witness the magic.
Sadly, this is George Clinton’s farewell tour. At 79 years old, it’s time to settle down — but not before giving his fans one last “give up the funk” party to end all parties. Clinton has been at this game of out-of-this-world performances since the ’70s, creating hybrid music that encompasses rock, funk, Motown, heavy metal, hip-hop, and soul, all while exploring various electronic sound technologies and lyricisms. He relishes in blurring the lines of genres. He is a songwriter, rapper, producer, and Captain of The Mothership. He has developed an influential and eclectic form of performance that incorporates on the ideas of futuristic vibes, outlandish fashion, psychedelic culture, and surreal humor.
Clinton is touring with, literally, a new generation of P-Funk that includes his son and daughter, many of his grandkids, and kids of P-Funk alumni. Now, truth be told, I have no idea who everyone was, what their names were, or anything like that. But at any given moment during the Mystic Theatre performance, the stage was filled with up to 20 people including two guitarists, three backup singers, keys, drums, bass, sax, a ton of MCs and rappers and Mr. Clinton himself, all giving it their all as they bounced, danced, twerked, and interacted with each other while blasting us with tightly played music.
It was pure chaos, in the best sense of the word. There were costumes, sequins, guitar-shredding, hair flips, sexual innuendo, platform shoes, the sharing of joints amid a swirl of active antics on stage. The band continually gave high-fives, fist bumps, and handshakes to the crowd throughout the night. MCs came and went, rapping and rhyming to the P-Funk beat. Mics were pointed to the audience, and copious amounts of sing-alongs were had during major hits such as “Give Up The Funk,” “Flash Light,” and many covers of well-loved hop-hop and soul tunes. Featured also were many songs from Clinton’s latest studio album Medicaid Fraud Dogg, which brings P-Funk into the 21st century with current themes and wicked funk-rock beats. The crowd smiled and smiled and smiled, while much hooting, hollering, and cheering ensued. There was true love from the players to the audience.
Because of his health, Clinton spent much of his time sitting center stage in a chair, but when he got up to sing or dance around with his band, his life force came shining through. You could tell his spirit was right where it belonged, regardless of what his body tells him. His smiles and laughter from the stage all gave the idea of a man who has had it all, gave it his all, and is now reigning high in his Mothership. He is the rightful King of Funk, a true showman who has been wowing crowds for decades. So I wish him well in his retirement, though I must admit, I highly doubt I am the only one who hopes that retirement does not last.