published Friday, June 18th, 2010

Post-groove ruminations

As the great Mike Jagger and the London Bach Choir have been telling us for all these years, you can't always get what you want. In the case of tonight's headliner, George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic, those words rung surprisingly true.

As I wrote in my earlier, borderline hyperbolic, blogs, I totally expected to get exactly what I wanted out of tonight's show, namely a killer flood of classic funk music delivered by one of the genre's most influential artists. After attending the show, I, and apparently many of the people I spoke with, didn't get at all what we wanted.

It's not that the show was bad, just not at all what I was expecting.

I think Clinton's vocals were quite rough, but perhaps that's to be expected after 55 years of singing, a career that's garnered numerous much-deserved accolades, including induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Maybe Clinton was tired. Maybe he was distraught over the death yesterday of his friend, guitarist Garry "Diaperman" Shider, which would be totally understandable. Whatever the reason, he didn't so much sing as bark at us. Perhaps that's an unfair observation to make about a 69-year-old whose vocals obviously outstrip my own by so much that it's not even worth analogizing the comparison, but there you have it.

My friends and I were watching the monitors and spent the better part of an hour trying simply to figure out which of the 20 people on stage was Clinton. While I can't say for sure, since I'm told he changed costumes, I'm fairly certain he wasn't even in front of the mike for almost 45 minutes. That's plain unacceptable to me, even in the face of the band's obvious talents and willingness to perform until the plug is pulled (they were still at it as I was walking back at 11:20).

Disappointing vocals I could deal with, but the very core of the music, the funk, seemed in surprisingly short supply.

Maybe I and the other disappointed audience members are to blame. I set an exceedingly lofty mental benchmark for tonight's show by listening to "Mothership Connection" four times earlier, back to back. That album is almost 35 years old. Could any artist live up to work from their prime when they're Clinton's age? Maybe not, but everything I'd heard about his shows, even recent ones, seemed to indicate tonight's performance would follow suit and bring the funk like it was going out of style.

Maybe the more important questions is actually if Clinton SHOULD be expected to perform the same as he did so many years ago. After all, with such a long career, can any artist be expected to ride the wave for the rest of their lives, playing the same hits endlessly, or would their inherent creative drive compel them to seek out new approaches to infuse into their established style? Based on tonight's show, Clinton clearly falls in the latter camp.

Whatever my reservations, I saw plenty of dancing (not as much as expected, but there was rump shaking going on), so clearly some of you were feeling it. Maybe I'm taking crazy pills, but with P-Funk, crazy is supposed to be the name of the game. Perhaps the trouble was really that mine just wore off.

about Casey Phillips...

Casey Phillips has worked as a features reporter in the Life department since May 2007. He writes about entertainment, consumer technology, animals and news of the weird. Casey hails from Knoxville and earned a bachelor of science degree in journalism and a bachelor of arts in German from Middle Tennessee State University, where he worked as the features editor for the student newspaper, Sidelines. Casey's writing has earned numerous accolades, including first and second place ...

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