TVD Live: George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic at the 9:30 Club, 2/7

The Mothership emerged ever so gloriously Tuesday night at the 9:30 Club. George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic, the pioneering psychedelic funk collective, played to a diverse crowd ranging from college-age Funkensteins to grey-haired devotees.

The scene was sexy, uninhibited, and orgiastic. When the music started, it didn’t stop. Since the Collective’s inception in the late ’60s, Clinton and his bandmates have forged a camaraderie whose impact is part of the roots of popular music. At 70 years old, Clinton is living, breathing, musical history.

What stood out the most when Clinton first appeared on stage was that there were no multi-colored stream dreadlocks. He banished his ‘do in exchange for a slick double-breasted suit. The horn and rhythm sections joined forces to form an imminent groove. They were warming the crowd up, and we were going with it. Then the bass, drums, and keyboards took us to the land where few ensembles dare to go together. The journey began.

Clinton has a giddiness for showmanship and live performance. You have to really listen to his wordplay. With phases like, “Free your mind and your ass will follow,” there are implications of that straddling of zen philosophy and non-conformist thought. At points in the show he did a little rap verse, “Picture this, paint a picture, picture perfect, paint a perfect picture.”And then he did it again, in repetition.

It’s no surprise he has offspring that perform with him. His granddaughter, Sativa Diva, was feisty yet sexy when she performed “Somethin’ Stink and I Want Some.” The groove got under our skin and brought the crowd to call-response interplay. Clinton’s grandson, Ric Smoov, laid out some heavy artillery verses, freestyling at the pace of a machine gun. All it takes are words and rhythm to make music. That’s the method by which the P-Funk mythology will persist.

The stage has carried a lot of sexual prowess. His backup singers—notably the naughty nurse—peaked vocal scales the felt orgasmic. By this time, Clinton had left and re-entered the stage in a West African robe. This is what the crowd was waiting for, the kitschy anti-clichés Clinton and P-Funk were known to bring. Enter the guy in the oversized skeleton head and the giant funk cigarette, then add some acrobatics and a Marcus Garvey look-a-like on french horn. You now have officially been to a storied George Clinton show.

Clinton and band played the standards he’s most known for such as “Atomic Dog,” “Flashlight,” and “Maggot Brain.” When they performed “We Want the Funk,” the stage and crowd were in a permanent state of audiophilia. But their performance of “Aqua Boogie” stood out. During the performance there were sound idiosyncracies that caused some overmodulation. It almost felt like the Mothership’s turbines were on high octane, and the crowd was subject to the ship’s rapture.

Mr. Clinton has been sampled by many musicians, mostly hip-hop artists. Cypress Hill, Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, and Ice-T all have works that were originally composed by Clinton. Parliament Funkadelic took form when the last generation of baby boomers were experiencing a post-counter-culture awakening. People grew their hair out, and a new wave of couture fashions caught on and stayed for a little bit. Parliament Funkadelic contributed to that culture. And folks who lived through it gave back on Tuesday. It was a mutual appreciation.

Photos by Paul Frederiksen

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