Monday, December 02, 2019

Give Up the Funk: The Great George Clinton Leads a Vast Assemblage of Talent at the Venue at Horseshoe Casino -- Chicago Concert Review

Concert Review

George Clinton
A Celebration of Parliament-Funkadelic
w/ opening acts Sounds of Slave
and The Ohio Players
The Venue at Horseshoe Casino, Hammond, IN
November 29, 2019

I have long known of George Clinton—going back at least 25 years if not considerably longer—and have always held the funk legend in high regard.

Back in 1994, I saw Clinton & the P-Funk All-Stars at Lollapalooza, and just a few months ago enjoyed a revue of his music and that of other funk titans in a Black Ensemble Theater show called You Can’t Fake the Funk.

But although I’m an appreciative fan, I'm far from an expert one.

Even in perusing Wikipedia, I’m a bit unclear on the delineations between Parliament, Funkadelic, P-Funk, what songs came when and the breadth or timeline of Clinton’s musical cohorts.

Sometime in 2018, Clinton—who is now 78—seemingly revealed that he would retire from touring in May 2019, and in having missed Parliament-Funkadelic’s show at the Aragon on May 31, I didn’t think I’d have another chance.

Sounds of Slave
So I was a bit surprised when my friend Dave—who is a far bigger fan of P-Funk but also imprecise
as to all the machinations—asked if I wanted to see George Clinton at the Venue at Horseshoe Casino in Hammond over Thanksgiving weekend.

Dave and I did go on Friday night, to a show dubbed A Celebration of Funk: George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic.

Clinton himself was certainly there, at centerstage for the headlining set, and great funk tunes like “Flashlight,” “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker),” “Get Up for the Downstroke” and “Atomic Dog” were performed.

Even before audience members were brought onstage at one point, around 20 other people were onstage with Clinton, with many stellar musicians, vocalists and dancers, some seemingly rotating through various responsibilities.

Regrettably, I do not know any of their names, but I’m certain legendary bassist Bootsy Collins was not on-hand.

The Ohio Players
Which is all to convey that I’m unsure if this was an official Parliament-Funkadelic show, or exactly what the parameters were, but as of November 29, George Clinton had decidedly not yet retired from performing.

All told, Dave and I—along with an enthusiastic if not quite full audience—enjoyed three hours of quality music, performed by at least 50 different people onstage, plus an MC/comedian called BLT (Bryant Turner being his full name).

Though no one other than Clinton was advertised, the show started with a vast outfit called Sounds of Slave.

With at least 20 musicians and singers sharply adorned in black & red outfits, they played funk songs that sounded akin to classics, but which may well have been originals. One seemingly was called “Just a Touch of Love.”

Certainly a nice way to start the evening.

Then, after some decent comedy from BLT, came the Ohio Players.

Yes, the Ohio Players, who were a rather big band in the 1970s, with two #1 singles.

Odd that they weren't advertised, but from Wikipedia, it's hard to tell that they're still an extant entity.

Leroy "Sugarfoot" Bonner, who was the frontman of the Dayton-based band in their heyday, passed away in 2013.

But from what I could piece together, it seems that at least two key Players from the '70s--drummer James "Diamond" Williams and keyboardist Billy Beck--remain in the current lineup.

They both are credited among several co-writers of "Love Rollercoaster"--the January 1976 chart topper that opened their half-hour set and was my favorite song heard all night--and "Fire," which was #1 the prior year and closed the Ohio Players' performance in Northwest Indiana.

P-Funk--if that's indeed accurate--then played for about an hour, with at least 4 or 5 people handling lead vocal duties, including Clinton and seemingly two of his rapping grandsons.

Though not the tightest of performances, the set had a great, funky vibe throughout and offered a variety of nice moments from the myriad artists onstage.

Great guitar, bass and saxophone solos. Check.

Dynamic dancing. Check.

Cool chants, such as "We want the funk! Give up the funk!" Check.

Clinton down in the crowd. Check.

Impressive rapping. Check.

Fun renditions of "Flashlight," "Atomic Dog," "Star Child" and more. Check.

A good time had by all. Check.

A fine evening of prime funk. Check.

A bit more appreciation for the impact and greatness of George Clinton. Check, check, check.

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