If the Godfather of Funk is going to retire from touring, he’s going to go out in an epic musical blaze. And that’s exactly what George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic’s One Nation Under a Groove Tour brought to Philadelphia’s Franklin Music Hall (formerly The Electric Factory) this month.
With four opening bands warming up the stage — Miss Velvet and the Blue Wolf, Dumpstaphunk, Fishbone and Galactic — Clinton’s farewell tour was a six and a half-hour funk fest, with P-Funk wrapping its set up just before 2:30 a.m.
Miss Velvet took the stage just before 8, immediately captivating the concertgoers, who ranged from young funkateers to gray-haired baby boomers there to catch one last glimpse of Clinton, who will turn 78 in July. The band plays a multi-genre mix of funk, metal and soul with frontwoman Miss Velvet belting out raspy vocals over heavy riffs punctuated by trumpet and trombone. Each opener played a truncated set of 30 to 40 minutes, a bit of a disservice to a lineup full of headliners, but a fitting potpourri of flavors for Clinton’s farewell.
New Orleans’ Dumpstaphunk took the stage next for a five-song set. A band of musical veterans led by Ivan Neville, son of Aaron Neville, the band’s heavy Louisiana funk kept things moving with a double-bass solo (yes, the band has two bass players) and an upbeat set of new songs and old.
Following Dumpstaphunk was the manic Los Angeles sextet Fishbone. While five songs can hardly do a band as eclectic and talented as Fishbone justice, the band got right to it, kicking things off with ska anthem “Party at Ground Zero.” The energy of a reunited Fishbone — trombonist/keyboardist Chris Dowd, drummer Philip “Fish” Fisher and guitarist John Bigham rejoined the band recently — coupled with the hype of opening Clinton’s farewell tour made for a tight, powerful set. Punk/ska song “Alcoholic” followed, followed by the slap-bass driven funk of “Bonin’ in the Boneyard.” The band threw in a resurrected fan favorite, metal ballad “Black Flowers,” before closing the set with punk/metalesque “Sunless Saturday.”
Before P-Funk could take the stage, New Orleans fun outfit Galactic wowed the crowd with a set of super-tight danceable grooves. The set weaved between horn-heavy instrumentals and funk and soul jams with soul-power vocals from Erica Falls.
Around 12:40 a.m., as the sound crew set up the last few vocal mics, P-Funk took the stage in a jam. The lineup, a mix of new and old P-Funk family, played classics like the tour’s namesake song, “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker),” “Flashlight” and “(Not Just Knee Deep),” featuring a guitar solo from “Kidd Funkadelic” Mike Hampton, who returned to the stage with P-Funk for this show.
Appropriately, the night ended with a long jam with members of the audience and the other bands all dancing on stage.
The One Nation Under a Groove Tour — its stacked lineup of openers; the enthusiastic, diverse crowd it attracted; and the marathon of music it brought to Philly — gave George Clinton the funky sendoff he deserves.