By Steve Jansen
Better than: Changing a baby’s diaper.
A guitarist wearing nothing but an oversized diaper. A white girl sporting a cat costume, then later, roller skating around stage with a fake fire extinguisher. A fit specimen of a man wearing a white fur coat. And an old dude in a peacock-esque headdress who can still bring the P-Funk.
George Clinton (photo by Nitin Vadukul)
These were just some of the things on display during the George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic (http://www.georgeclinton.com/) show at Marquee Theatre Wednesday night. At times, it didn’t all make sense. But when/if it starts making sense, it’s probably a sign that Clinton has died and gone back to the planet he is from.
The 66-year old funk pioneer was very much alive during the marathon concert. Not only did he lead the packed house in handclaps and dance stomps, but he also gruffed out the recognizable lyrics to “One Nation Under a Groove,” “Atomic Dog,” “P-Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up),” “Flash Light,” “Give Up The Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker),” and other crowd-pleasing hits.
The night seemed more like a party than a performance, as random people from backstage walked in and out of the musical potpourri. Some started singing, strumming a funk-soaked guitar, or playing the drums, while others stood around or danced a bit before exiting stage left or right. And, of course, doobies were passed from person to person onstage and in the crowd.
Though there were no spaceships descending from the sky like in the old days, Clinton did exchange cryptic banter with The Funky One, a sometimes-unseen, deity-like presence. Another fictional character to the P-Funk mythology, Sir Nose, made its enigmatic appearance in the form of a large handwritten sign. It’s been said that Sir Nose (from Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo Syndrome’s "Sir Nose Devoid of Funk") wants to end the funk because he’s too cool to dance.
“Diaper Man” Garry Shider (http://www.myspace.com/garryshider) provided the most interesting eye candy for the evening. A co-writer of Clinton’s 1982 solo hit “Atomic Dog,” Shider also stole the show for his virtuosic guitar stylee and soulful vocals. The second most interesting visual feast occurred when a gal no older than 21 was pulled from the crowd and received a P-Funk sandwich, with the fur coat dude and Clinton acting as the two slices of bread. (If only her parents could see what their tuition money is paying for.)
There were some hiccups, namely during the under-50 showcase. Clinton made sure that some of the younger band members received some spotlight time. These included some lame rap performances and an awkward piano/vocal solo. It was a nice gesture, but musically, it was nothing but a crowd killer.
Overall, one of my friends, who had dance happy feet the moment we walked into the venue, summed up the night when she said, “I can’t stop moving.”
Personal Bias: As a kid, I remember being both scared and strangely mesmerized by “Flash Light,” especially the chanting at song’s end. Hearing it live brought me back to my older brother’s bedroom, where the song would warble out of his portable 8-track player.
Random Detail: The guy manning the merch table apparently played on a record with Weasel Walter from The Flying Luttenbachers and XBXRX. This info came out when my other friend, who was wearing a neon green “Brutal Prog” Luttenbachers tee, went to buy a P-Funk shirt. When my friend asked the dude’s name, he pointed to his black cap and said, “This is my name.” All it had were a random string of letters and numbers. I think there may have been a dash in there, too.