George Clinton & the P-Funk All-Stars
By Thomas Conner
© Tulsa World
Out at the Tulsa airport, there's a woman who runs a little
booth called "Minute Massage,'' or something like that. One buck
equals one minute of massage — a nice back rub and your feet on
one of those vibrating bumpy pads. I'm thinking of making the drive
out there today with a wad of cash. I wonder if she would
understand my aches and pains if I just collapsed in her chair and
murmured, "George Clinton.''
Clinton and his P-Funk All-Stars played (and shook the
foundations of) the Cain's Ballroom on Thursday night. They played
and they played and they played — for three and a half hours they
played, and I jumped up and down the whole time. I had no choice.
The funkmeister made me do it.
I can't say he didn't warn me. After the first "song'' — a
juggernaut medley that began with "The Bomb'' and kept exploding
for 30 minutes — Clinton and his tag-team of a few dozen musicians
launched into "If Anybody Gets Funked Up (It's Gonna Be You),'' a
track from Clinton's latest album, "T.A.P.O.A.F.O.M. (The Awesome
Power of a Fully Operational Mothership).'' The word "funk''
frequently substituted for another f-word, but in these hands it
was effective either way.
You couldn't ask for a more amazing show. Every era of Clinton's
four-decade career at the helm of two of music's most influential
and interwoven bands — Funkadelic and Parliament — was
represented, as was each generation of the Clinton family.
The show started off with the sexy R&B of the Parliament
players. They came on one by one — drums, then add the bass, then
the keyboards, then cycle through the horn players, then The Man.
Clinton walked on stage like the king of the tribe, wearing a
multi-colored knit hat over that mass of multi-colored hair that
looks like the mop used to clean up the spills in a kindergarten
classroom. (And was that a simple bed sheet he wore, patterned with
planets, stars and spaceships?) In no time, the band had the crowd
jumping to Parliament classics like "Tear the Roof Off the Sucker
(Give Up the Funk)'' and "Flash Light.''
Later in the show, the harder-rocking Funkadelic side of things
was showcased — the yang to Parliament's yin.
An enthralling, 15-minute instrumental jam spotlighted guitarist
Mike Hampton as one of the most scorching players alive. Later,
when Star Child led the rapping (wearing only a huge diaper with a
"P'' on the front and the word "Booty'' on the back), the
capacity crowd became one very large backup chorus. Funkadelic
tunes such as "Can You Get to That'' and "Free Your Mind and Your
Ass Will Follow'' fired up the joint, as did the appearance of
Louis "Babbling'' Kababbie. He's a rapper Clinton produces, and
he's a middle-aged, balding white guy. He looks like he just came
in from Miami Beach and left his leisure suit in a backstage
locker. But when he starts rapping — leading the crowd in shouts
of "Booty!'' — he rips it out like Cypress Hill's B-Real.
All in all, 29 musicians paraded around Thursday night. At one
point, there were 22 people jamming on the Cain's modest little
stage. (Actually, not all of them were musicians. The Nose, for
instance, is simply a handsome man wearing an 8-inch plastic nose
and a Cyrano hat, and his job is just to dance a bit and be
noticed. Nice work if you can get it.)
Clinton's son and granddaughter both came out to rap their own
songs. By the end of the show, the stage was filled with women.
Listening to this music, from the high-jumping funk to the
smooth and jazzy grooves, it was clear that all roads in black
music and beyond either lead to George Clinton or at least pass
through the P-Funk metropolis. Everything that's come out of
Prince, even his latest guitar-drenched rock album, was born of
Funkadelic. Every hip-hop and rap artist had to be influenced by
this early beat and Clinton's astonishingly poetic raps about the
folly of drugs and the CIA ("It is more profitable to pretend that
we're stopping it than it is to sell it''). Even drag queen
extraordinaire RuPaul put together a dance track on his first
record with a chorus that changes only one word from a Clinton
original: "Free your mind, and the rest will follow.''
All that history made for one killer party Thursday night. Half
of the delightfully diverse, capacity crowd was still in the
ballroom when the band finally left near 1 a.m. If everyone's feet
are as sore as mine, here's to you all.
How does Clinton — granddaddy Clinton — pull this off
every night? See you at the masseur.
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These online "clips" reproduce a self-selection of my journalism (music etc) during the last 20+ years. It's a lotta stuff, but it only scratches the surface. I do not currently possess the time or resources to digitize the whole body of work. These posts are simply a bunch of pretty great days at the office.