The Beat Review: George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic Baltimore gets properly funked.

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For years, George Clinton & Parliament-Funkadelic shows would ease into the music by starting out with jams and gradually bringing band members on stage. George sometimes wouldn’t come out until the show was well underway. But, along with his famed multi-colored hair, gone are the days of waiting for Dr. Funkenstein to take the stage.

At a recent Baltimore performance, George and the P-Funk crew came out strong with the new funky hip-hop Parliament single “I’m Gon Make U Sick O’Me,” before launching into a two-and-a-half hour show.

Modern-day P-Funk shows are a family affair ­— a number of George’s grandchildren are featured with their own songs highlighted, including his granddaughters, the duo Kandy Apple Redd, who also serve as backup singers.

While a number of members of the band go back to the classic era of P-Funk, including bassist Lige Curry, guitarist Blackbyrd McKnight, saxophonist Greg Thomas, trumpet player Bennie Cowan and vocalist Michael “Clip” Payne, the new generation is also holding the funk down. Baltimore’s own Bennie Cowan Jr. aka “Benzel” plays drums, and Garrett Shider, son of the late P-Funk guitarist Garry Shider, who was known for wearing a diaper on stage, was the second of three guitarists sharing duty with McKnight. And these are just a few of the old-school-to-new-school connections. One would need quite the family tree to track the whole P-Funk enclave.

As the funk mob made its way through songs that spanned George Clinton’s illustrious career, the younger members of the P-Funk crew took the show on a ride from funk to hip hop to metal back to funk. And while George’s voice shows signs of funkin’ for 50-plus years, he sang his way through songs from all eras of P-Funk and played the crucial role of emcee and hype man, holding his mic up to horns as they soloed and guitar amps as guitarists wailed.

The night featured 1978’s “Aqua Boogie (A Psychoalphadiscobetabioaquadoloop),” which queued longtime dancer Carlos McMurray, who plays the role of funk folklore character Sir Nose D’Voidoffunk, an unfunky individual who just doesn’t have the funk. But as he finds his way to the funk — swim, as the Parliament song says — Sir Nose goes from a hater and heckler to quite the impressive dancer and on-stage emissary for the funk.

Blackbyrd and Benzel brought the house down as they flexed their chops on the classic guitar solo instrumental “Maggot Brain.” The story goes that George told the late Eddie Hazel to play as if he just found out his mother died, and the resulting 10-plus minute song became one of rock’s most iconic guitar solos. Blackbyrd did that legacy justice, and as the band joined in, Benzel got a chance to match Blackbyrd’s speed-picking and finger-tapping with his own lightning-fast drum fills.

Of course, no P-Funk show would be complete with “(Not Just) Knee Deep,” “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)” and “Atomic Dog,” all of which surfaced in the second half of the show.

After a two-and-a-half hour marathon of show, Rams Head Live was properly funked, with George and the crew ready to blast off in the mothership to the next destination, with Baltimore properly funkified. At least until next time…

 

About THE BEAT: Marc Shapiro, a lifelong musician and concert-goer, writes about regional and national musicians, concerts, festivals and the music industry. He is managing editor at the Baltimore Jewish Times, a sister publication of Baltimore Style. More of his photos can be viewed on his Facebook page, and he can be reached at [email protected].

 

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