George Clinton, one of the original innovators of American Funk music, came to the Chumash Casino in Santa Ynez last week, with a small army of performers in tow. The 74 year old maestro of Funk looked like he arrived ready for business, in a sleek Maroon suit, as fit and trim as he has been in decades. The mastermind behind the original Parliament Funkadelic band that redefined dance music in the 70’s, Clinton had seen some ragged years of late, worn down by decades of drug abuse. But it was a delight to see a sober Clinton living in the moment with his latest incantation of the P Funk sound.
The current band is astounding, including an eclectic mix of veteran jazz funk players, young rock funk musicians, Hip Hop and Soul singers (Which included several of his grandchildren), and his long time lead dancer, Sir Nose. The set opened with a 12 minute jam of “Mothership Connection (Star Child),” a mid-70’s Parliament staple, which got the sold out crowd on their feet early. Clinton has always lead his group into classic jam band territory, mashing up genres in a magnificent crescendo of sound. The song ended with an ear piercing double guitar solo. This electric jam was followed by the jazz infused “One Nation Under a Groove,” which included a funky bass solo, a jazz drenched horn break and a quick drum solo. Three more hot tunes followed, including “Pole Power,” “Get Low,” and “Ain’t That Funkin’ Kinda Hard on You?”, coming from the first Funkadelic album in 33 years “first ya gotta Shake the Gate”. The three song set featured several young Hip Hop singers offering up a modern groove to the music.
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The show took a turn when the band returned to the 70’s P Funk sound, with the mega dance hit “Flashlight”. Still a staple in modern dance clubs, the song sent the crowd into the aisles and the front of the stage, opening the party up to dance crazed music fans. During the classic song Clinton showed he still has some funky dance moves and Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk came out dressed like a pimp in a feathery white suit and proceeded to do onstage handstands and myriad acrobatics. Next came “(Not Just) Knee Deep,” which included some funky scat singing by brilliant saxophonist Greg Thomas. Clinton’s granddaughters Tonysha and Sativa then got to step out front with a cover of “Vanish In Our Sleep,” by former Parliament master bassist Bootsy Collins. Another mega hit “Atomic Dog,” came next during which Clinton invited audience members onstage to dance, a few of whom ended up salaciously sandwiched between Clinton and Sir Nose. The near two hour set ended on a high note with “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker),” which segued into “Night of the Thumpasorus Peoples,” and lots of psychedelic era guitar. The extended jam saw a euphoric crowd swarming the musicians, dancing, singing and high fiving the band. Long live the funk.