George Clinton & P-Funk - O2 ABC, Glasgow, Fri 18 Apr 2014
'Dr Funkenstein' is back, and more involved in the onstage funking than he's been in years
Who wants to get funked up? Glasgow clearly does, given the substantial crowd who turn up to see George Clinton and P-Funk drop the bomb on the ABC. Until recently, P-Funk shows were reportedly sad affairs, with Clinton barely present, and the band falling apart at the seams. Drug problems and the death in 2010 of guitarist and musical director Garry Shider had clearly taken their toll. So it's a joy to see that the George Clinton who steps out onstage tonight is a revitalised figure, having beaten his debilitating crack addiction and traded his rainbow dreadlocks and muumuu for a feathered fedora, polka dot shirt and natty tartan blazer. Looking like a cross between a Harlem pimp and an eccentric Highland laird, the 73-year-old Dr Funkenstein is more involved than he's been in years, taking lead vocals on several tracks and conducting his horn section with the magisterial grace of a Duke Ellington. The large, free-wheeling P-Funk ensemble, which includes veterans like guitarist Michael 'Kidd Funkadelic' Hampton alongside newer members, are on fine form, nailing the eccentric dancefloor grooves of the Parliament material and the looser psychedelic-rock of Funkadelic.
A gloriously heavy 'Cosmic Slop' opens proceedings, with Hampton and fellow axesmith Ricardo Rouse firing off Hendrix-inspired licks over a driving groove. Vocal lines are traded between members, with otherworldly harmonies rising wraith-like around the bridge refrain. It's a heady trip. Hampton makes the late Eddie Hazel's post-Hendrix guitar masterpiece 'Maggot Brain' his own, wringing every last drop of lysergic weep from his Telecaster over ten aching minutes. '(Not Just) Knee Deep In The Funk' takes the band in a bouncier direction, with Clinton leading the first big sing-along of the night.
In Clinton's black science-fiction mythology, P-Funk are benevolent visitors from another planet, beaming down from their mothership to free minds and booties with their cosmic funk. While there's nothing to match the elaborate stage-shows of the late seventies, where Clinton floated down from the rafters in a huge flying saucer, there's still some winningly daft pantomime in Clinton's showdown with intergalactic supervillain Sir Nose D'Voidoffunk, a severely uptight figure with a cartoonish Richard Nixon proboscis. Pimped-out in white furs, Sir Nose taunts the funkateers until he finally surrenders to the groove, climbing the speaker stacks to throw impossibly acrobatic shapes in the kaleidoscope glare of 'Flashlight'.
There are some lesser moments: Clinton's granddaughter's cameo, where she raps gleefully about the joys of weed and sex, is diverting enough, but it's hardly on a par with the P-Funk classics. There's also a slight mid-set dip where everyone, it seems, gets to take a solo. But such indulgences are part of the free-wheeling P-Funk ethos, and give both the audience and Clinton a chance to take a breath before a magnificent final stretch brings the party. From to 'Give Up The Funk', 'Mothership Connection', followed by 'One Nation Under A Groove', this is an embarrassment of funky riches. Clinton goes back to his early days with a revival of the Parliaments' 1967 soul stormer 'I Wanna Testify', before 'Atomic Dog' closes the set in a riot of canine howls and outrageous bass. Audience members are invited onto stage to dance, while a beaming Clinton pogos like a man half his age. It's a joyous affirmation that he and his funk mob have got their groove back.