Monday, August 21, 2023

Live Shows: Parliament Funkadelic featuring George Clinton and Fishbone, MGM Music Hall at Fenway, Boston, MA 8/17/23

Like most people my generation, I discovered the music of George Clinton and Parliament/Funkadelic through Dr. Dre samples and the movie PCU. The 90's provided a rebirth for the funk legend, and I was lucky to see a performance of George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars many years ago at what was then Roxy. I have been meaning to see him again, but it just had never worked out. I thought I had missed my chance for good when he did a farewell tour a few years back, but luckily I was able to catch the farewell tour the third time it rolled through Boston. Ska-punk legends Fishbone were a perfect bonus for me.

Currently touring as Parliament Funkadelic featuring George Clinton, the band was referred to as Third Generation P-Funk. It makes sense considering the multi-generational band ranges from eighty-two year old Clinton to members in their twenties. The musicians and singers were a revolving group of fifteen to twenty (maybe more!) that seemed to meander on and off stage when needed. There were at least five back up singers, a horn section, a few guitarists, etc. Some songs were updated by the Third Generation and were straight up hip hop, while others kept their 70's funk roots intact. No matter what, the entire evening stayed a party for well over an hour.

At this point, George Clinton is more a Master of Ceremony than the main component of the band. He came out to start the show and sang most of the first song, but after that there was a chair for him to sit on by the drum set. (The man is eighty-two, after all, and Yelp is filled with thirty somethings complaining that venues don't have enough chairs.) He would sing from the chair, and sometimes get up to walk to the front of the stage, but for the most part he seemed more than content to bask in what he created and let the new generation shine. He had the air of a proud great-grandfather at a family reunion, just sitting back and enjoying the family he created. 

And the band was simply amazing. Every single player was a world class musician that nailed every part of classics like "One Nation Under a Groove," "Flash Light," "Maggot Brain," "Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)," and, oddly, a cover of House of Pain's "Jump Around." There was even an extended period for solos that included guitar, trombone, keyboard (which I think involved the theme song for the 90's X-Men cartoon), and saxophone all getting extended time to shine.

Fishbone being included on the show was perfect for me, but it seemed like a lot of the audience didn't know what to make of them at first. Opening with "Estranged Fruit," the band focused on their new EP while playing long time fan favorites. They seemed to lean more on their funk and even gospel side than their punk roots, but they stayed Fishbone throughout. "All We Have is Now" was the song that seemed to start to pull the crowd in, and the gospel infused "Everyday Sunshine" fully pulled them in. They followed that with "Alcoholic," which included a snippet of ACDC's "Back in Black," and closed with the classic one-two punch of ska classics "Skankin' to the Beat" and "Party at Ground Zero." This was the perfect double bill, and let's hope these two bands never stop touring together.

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