Concert Review: George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic At Toad’s Place in New Haven, CT
A truly diverse crowd was on hand to welcome the legendary George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic when they hit Toad’s Place in New Haven, CT on February 17, 2011. The show lasted many hours, and was filled to the brim with incredible musicianship, driving bass, clouds of smoke, and inappropriate throwing of the horns from the audience. (This ain’t a metal show, kids.) I shall try my damnedest to refrain from making funk-based puns during this review, but don’t shoot me if I let one slip.
Kicking off the evening’s festivities was Ric Smoov, who is actually Clinton’s grandson. He warmed up the crowd with his own backing band of talented funk musicians, many of whom would later appear onstage as part of Parliament Funkadelic. In fact, some of those same musicians were founding members of the historic funk band; in essence, they worked double-time for the show.
After their short set, the stage was reconfigured a bit for the imminent arrival of the Godfather of P-Funk himself, George Clinton. The man of the hour had a bit of a cold, so his voice was harsher than usual, but that sure as hell didn’t stop him from entertaining his fans. Clinton epitomizes the term “bandleader” in every possible way. When he wasn’t singing, he was directing the rest of the band or the crowd to jam along with the tunes, rarely if ever staying still.
Describing the performance is a bit tricky. Aside from the constant coming and going of musicians, backup singers and dancers, and special guests, the band rarely played full songs as originally recorded. Most of them were extended jam sessions, or morphed into other songs entirely. It was not unusual for a single song to last fifteen minutes or more! Still, many well-known hits made their appearance, like “Flash Light,” “Atomic Dog,” and the ever-popular “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker).” Longtime guitarist Michael Hampton absolutely killed it with the instrumental “Maggot Brain,” and he even managed to work in an especially bass-heavy rendition of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man.” Hampton has always brought rock and metal riffs into his funk work, and a few of the axes he played would not have looked out of place hanging off of a death metal guitarist. Parliament Funkadelic is well-known for being a multigenerational band, and their performance here was no exception. Clinton’s granddaughter Sativa Diva performed a song or two, and even her daughter was in attendance. The stage seemed to be in constant motion as musicians came and went, but this added to the free-flowing nature of the show.
I mentioned earlier the diversity of the crowd, and I wasn’t kidding. From metalheads to rap fans to hipsters to funk followers from the 1970s, everyone and anyone was united in their love for Clinton and his music. Also in their love for certain…smokeables, if you will. Very few concertgoers caused any sort of the problem, but the ones that did are notable. Aside from the usual few folks who found it wise to imbibe far too much, I need to single out this gentleman who was well over six feet tall and sporting a giant white afro. Now, most tall guys – myself included – will tend to hang towards the back at shows, as we know that it’s rude to block others’ view. This asshole was unwilling to subscribe to such politeness. His mission was apparently to stand in front of as many people as possible over the course of the evening, making it difficult if not impossible for them to see the damned band. If you want to replicate this experience at home, try reading this review with a cotton ball in front of your eye. More than one grumbling fan wanted to tear the afro from his head, but it was not readily apparent if this was his real hair or not. (That, and nobody wanted to risk police intervention considering how many recreational substances were being passed around.)
The sparingly few douchebag fans aside, a George Clinton performance is not one to be missed, no matter what kind of music you’re into. Just free your mind, and your ass will follow.
View the full gallery of photos from the show: