Psychologically speaking we’re in a state of mental diarrhoea – talkin’ shit, a barrel a minute

gclinton-1429537034A remarkable, boisterous, overwhelming evening at Bristol Academy last Friday in the company of a rather strange old gentleman from another planet…

P-Funk at Bristol Academy

In truth, I’m not sure where or when Funakadelic begat Parliament, or when either of them begat P-Funk. I wouldn’t be surprised if the great George Clinton was a little fuzzy about it too (in fact I’d be disappointed if he wasn’t). And I had absolutely no idea what to expect of the latest tour from such a notoriously eccentric character, but lawks! What an evening!

I’m quite enjoying the ride down to Bristol these days, now the weather’s kinder and work finishes in daylight hours, and as a result I had the chance to drive down in the sunshine, enjoying re-familiarising myself with the only Parliament record I own – 1970’s Osmium, a pretty eclectic affair it has to be said. On arrival (or “landing” as I should probably refer to it from here on), I spent a rather serene couple of hours chilling out in the Park Street area, gracing a couple of record stores and loafing about in St George’s park. All of which turned out to be a deceptively chilled start to what turned into some sort of inferno of an evening.

In a 2014 interview, Clinton was asked what he expected from a concert audience

“I expect them to shake their ass.” he said, “I’m expecting that there’s a whole lot of booties gonna be jumping around and having a good time. My job is to make sure that booties shake. Im gonna have everyone bring two booties and we will double the shaking.”

As the skinniest and whitest of skinny, white guys, I’m a little uncomfortable around talk like this and the prospect of one of those evenings where you may be required to shake your skinny, white ass, even just a little, makes me feel queasy. And, within seconds of George Clinton arriving with an entourage that at times swelled to as many as 18 people on stage at the same time, it was pretty obvious that, yeah, I’d walked into one such time. But c’mon, what was I thinking?

It was an honour and a privilege.

At this point, a word about audience participation: I’m not a fan, I’ve railed about it before. All I can say is that, with apologies to Colin Melloy, when the actual Dr Funkenstein tells you to put your hands in the air, well… Again, An honour… A privilege…

Looking rather dapper, and comparatively sober in jacket and tie (no dreads, no wings, no spandex), he still looked ridiculously sprightly. Flanked by a rhythm section (sans Bootsy, I’m afraid), two lead guitarists, three backing singers, at least four other singers/comperes, a brass section and assorted keyboard players, it could’ve looked like Clinton was going to spend at least some of the time on the sidelines, enjoying the fruits of his labours, letting the next generation take the strain a little. That wasn’t really how it panned out, though. With only the briefest of sitting breaks, Clinton led his curious ensemble through a two and a half hour set which made nonsense of his barely credible 74 years.

As a spectacle, it was at times breath-taking, dancers and musicians mingling onstage like some sort of jiggy circus. At one point, and at various times during the evening, a particularly outlandish character dressed in a full-length sheepskin coat and wide-brimmed sheepskin hat strolled on and draped himself about the stage exotically, across musicians, atop speaker stacks and in and out of the audience, leading a troupe of Bristol Laydeez onto the stage.

Clearly it was never going to be a refined evening and a degree of self-indulgence was a given – a twelve minute version of Maggot Brain, gave way to an eight minute scat singing opus at one point – but there were some moments of real poise alongside the delirious movement of bodies throughout.

A great, great evening, which restored my faith in old guys. Highlights were a gigantic version of One Nation, a pretty demented Atomic Dog and, well, all of the grooving.

There are already a few clips on YouTube, this one being my favourite:

 

Crikey! In truth I’ve not yet got through the full 160 minutes of the recording, but they’re ok, reflecting a raucous evening pretty accurately. Here are a couple of disorderly highpoints

Mothership Connection

One Nation Under a Groove

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