August 17, 2015 George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic Irresistible at The Paramount Huntington, NY 7-19-15
Rock and Roll Hall of Famer George Clinton has released sixteen solo albums, nine as the leader of Parliament, and sixteen fronting Funkadelic. An icon in music, Clinton’s storied career began fronting the ’50s Doo-Wop group The Parliaments, and he is considered one of the forefathers of Funk music, bursting onto the scene in 1970 with the aforementioned Parliament’s debut Osmium and Funkadelic’s self-titled release. Between the two albums, a staggering twenty-eight musicians took part in the recording. Simply put, Clinton and his band has revolutionized music with their wild blend of Rock, Jazz, Psychedelic, Soul, and Funk. On tour throughout the Summer, Clinton brought his extensive Shake the Gate tour to Huntington, New York’s The Paramount on Sunday July 19th for a night of mind-blowing music. Featuring an eighteen member backing group on vocals, bass, guitar, horns, keys, drums, and percussion, Clinton led them through a performance covering a wide swath of musical styles.
With a broad range of fans from all different generations and backgrounds on hand, there was an energy in the venue that could be felt quite strongly. While someone have bared witness to Clinton’s performance countless times over the decades, some were actually about to experience it for the very first time. Not one to disappoint, the show kicked off with “Flashlight,” from 1977’s Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo Syndrome, finding the band turning the Disco sound on its ear. Jangly guitars and high-pitched squeals on keys moved the groove along as the crowd could not keep themselves still. A wailing solo on saxophone put the finishing touches on the catchy dance number. “P. Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up) was a slow burning Soul jam built on a simple piano melody. Over the pianos, Clinton alternated between spoken word and soulful singing. The horn section spiked the song with tasteful jazz-laden runs throughout.
Going back to 1971, “Maggot Brain,” with a brief spoken word intro, then fell into a ten minute plus jam primarily on electric guitar. Sounding like the best of English Blues-based Rock and early American Hard Rock, the track featured loads of distortion and feedback over a simple riff on piano and was an exercise in restraint as the space between the notes were just as vital as the ear-splitting sounds emanating from the stacks of amplifiers. “Give Up the Funk” brought back the sound of packed discotheques. A spiraling lead from the horns, winding bass, and an irresistible hook made the song infinitely endearing.
“Mothership Connection (Star Child),” a medium-paced Funk masterpiece combined all the elements Clinton is known for. With fiery horns, a groovy run on the organ, spaced-out effects, stellar backing vocals, he took the sounds of Sly Stone to another level in a hodgepodge of noise. “Aqua boogie (A Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadoloop)” was a psychotic freak-out that found Clinton and Co. traveling all over the musical landscape. Honky-Tonk pianos, Jazz guitar, ’60s Soul horns, ’70s Funk keys, Psychedelic-Rock synthesizers, and bizarre lyrics darted in and out over the extended jam.
“(Not Just) Knee Deep” featured an instantly recognizable melody on synthesizer as it was sampled by De La Soul on their 1989 number one hit “Me, Myself, and I.” The Funk-heavy Dance number eventually took off into an all-out Rock number with a searing, lengthy guitar solo sounding like the best of early ’70s Classic Rock. Grounded by classic Afrobeat drumming, “Cosmic Slop” echoed the bold sounds of so many Blaxploitation films of the ’70s. High register vocals, mean horns, and purposeful punches on guitar steered the song through with purpose. The dark melody screamed desperation and despair.
“Get Low,” from 2014’s First Ya Gotta Shake the Gate, proved Clinton has not lost his touch and can still put a fresh face on the sound he helped pioneer. An impossible to ignore lead on the synthesizer was persistent throughout the song as it deftly melded classic, fuzzed out bass, along with snappy drums, and bringing it into today’s sound, the song incorporated Rap verses. In a nod to his past, the lyrics included the words “Funkadelic,” “Mothership,” and “Parliament.” As Clinton has always been part of the marijuana culture, “Get Low” was no exception, with lyrics also stated, “I’m gonna sit back and get high while you get low…….” Also from the new release, “Baby Like Fonkin’ it Up” sounded like it was coming from a tenement window in 1972 Brooklyn with aural lyrics, drums destined to be sampled by Hip-Hop artists fifteen years later, and horns that sounded like they were reared on Miles Davis and John Coltrane. An extensive, laid back groove that went on for nearly ten minutes, the song was an exercise in complexity and dynamics.
Keeping the excitement high until the final moments, show closer “Atomic Dog” was an excellent choice as it encapsulated all that is so appealing about Clinton and his sweeping body of work. With rubber band bass, catchy keys, resolute drumming, wild effects, and several seductive hooks, it is no wonder the song has been sampled well over one hundred times in Pop music by Rap royalty such as 2Pac, Snoop Dogg, Public Enemy, LL Cool J, Big Daddy Kane, and Ice Cube, among others.
To call George Clinton a legend would be a disservice. When it comes to Funk, R&B, and Soul, he is Elvis and The Beatles. A ground-breaking innovator in the studio, he was also on the forefront of carnival-like live spectaculars in which the spectacle was just as vital as the music. His ability to fuse premier musicianship with celebratory regalia is still, forty-five years later, unmatched. The You Gotta Shake the Gate Tour continues storming North America. Music lovers looking for a night of stunning sounds, a brazen party, and songs that get them out of their seat, do not miss this show.