At Plush Nightclub on Sunday, March 4
When a pot-bellied guy with dreads wearing a diaper and a bright yellow top told the capacity crowd at Plush that the Prime Minister of Funk, George Clinton, had been held up at immigration, it seemed that border services was out to confirm our reputation as No-Fun—or No-Funk—City. His assurances that Parliament Funkadelic was still in the house weren't enough to free our minds. When the bass player—normally the heart and soul of a funk band—moved to centre stage two songs in, the crowd got even more antsy. His artless one-note solo no doubt had many people waxing nostalgic for Bootsy Collins.
After an hour of somewhat lacklustre funk, though, things started to heat up. With some ripping guitar followed by a few bars of Frank Zappa's "I'm the Slime", the King of Interplanetary Funk made his way to the crowded stage, looking like a pudgy Gandalf in a starry black robe and hood. The band kicked into "Give Up the Funk", and we thought they might really tear the roof off the sucker for the promised three-and-a-half-hour, 30-piece-band marathon, especially when they followed with "Up for the Down Stroke". Things started smokin' when a guy in a pimp hat and coat walked out with a banner that read Fuck George as the group lit up "Flashlight". Surely the banner referred to another George.
The night didn't live up to its billing. Sure it was good, if a bit uneven fun, but it wasn't the kind of full-on dance party that sax man Maceo Parker brought to the Commodore in November, and not just because fewer than 15 band members seemed to be on-stage at any time. In fact, one of the highlights came when Clinton left the stage with all the musicians save for a bass player, drummer, rhythm guitarist, keyboard player, and amazing lead guitarist DeWayne "Blackbyrd" McKnight, who rocked some psychedelic blues that would have sent our own decidedly unfunky Steve Newton into interplanetary overdrive.
A rock 'n' roll medley near the end ("Whole Lotta Shakin'?"/"Slippin' and Slidin'?"/?"Let the Good Times Roll", et cetera) proved the 65-year-old can still keep it up, and it was great to see the way he encouraged the younger band members and even some musical roadies. But when the group left the stage shortly after midnight and then returned for an encore it seemed more obligatory than desired as people began shuffling off to the exits.