Question: What happens when you throw Frank Zappa, James Brown, Sun Ra, Jimi Hendrix and the Temptations into a blender?
Answer: You get Parliament/Funkadelic!
If you’re at all confused, please understand right off the bat that Parliament and Funkadelic are one and the same band, merely alter egos of the same musical entity. So even though Saturday night’s Lakeland concert was billed as a Parliament show, the group pleased the half-full audience with favorites from both Parliament’s and Funkadelic’s rich recorded histories.
This tour by the group(s) also marks the first time in over 20 years that the man responsible for the whole Parliafunkadelicment Thang, Head Funkateer George Clinton, is not on the road with the group. After last year’s tour, George announced his retirement from touring. Such a move would have signalled the end for many groups, but there seems to be no end in sight for this great band, which at one point Saturday had no less than 23 members on stage, including four guitar players and ten singers.
“P-Funk,” as the group is affectionately known, is now fronted by Garry Shider, who has been lead vocalist for the past half-dozen years. He does a fine job as group leader, but his forte is singing. He may be the best lead vocalist in all of rock. After a brief instrumental workout on “Alice In My Fantasies,” the group launched into “Cosmic Slop,” the usual show opener that showcases Shider’s superb voice. If they ever go about selecting a rock national anthem, “Cosmic Slop” ought to win hands down.
The enthusiastic crowd was treated to “One Nation Under a Groove,” “Maggot Brain,” “Mothership Connection” and “Flashlight,” but the visual highlight came when Shider, dressed as Starchild, was turned into a donkey in accordance with the storyline of Parliament’s new album, Gloryhallastoopid (or Pin the Tail on the Funky). They closed the hour-and-a-half performance with “(not just) Knee Deep” from the most recent Funkadelic album, Uncle Jam Wants You.
The show was a great tribute to George Clinton, one of rock’s greatest contributors. Tradition carries on – Parliament/Funkadelic is still one of America’s greatest touring rock shows.
Skyy opened the show with a bouncy set which caught the fancy of the crowd, which responded warmly. Skyy draws heavily from the example set by Earth, Wind and Fire, but their sound is clearly their own.
The Brides of Funkenstein were also on the bill. The Brides are part of the p-Funk show, and they perform in Parliament as back-up vocalists as well. The three ladies, dressed variously as a cowboy, and Indian and a dance-hall girl, got the audience ready for the main even with tender ballads and full-tilt rockers, much to the crowd’s delight.
[I wrote this review for Music Media magazine, but it folded before I got it published.]
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