The Parliament-Funkadelic live experience is unlike any other. The Mothership Connection/P-Funk Earth Tour in 1977 still stands as one of the most extravagant stage shows ever executed by a recording artist. Unfortunately, due to my less-than-spectacular grades in high school, I wasn’t able to see those mind-blowing performances. My personal attendance at P-Funk shows started in 1983. I’ve witnessed hundreds of shows and have rarely been disappointed. Please join me in this trip down memory lane as I spotlight some of the greatest moments within the P-Funk live Thang.
THE RED PARROT, NYC-March 24th, 1983
My very first P-Funk live experience came during the I Brake For Atomic Dogs tour which supported George Clinton’s comeback hit of the same name. Due to the size of the venue, the Red Parrot was filled well past capacity, to the degree that Maceo Parker, MC for the event, had to instruct the fans to back away from the stage. One of the standout moments of this gig was the unannounced appearance of bassist Bootsy Collins performing “Body Slam.” Eddie Murphy was also in attendance.
THE RITZ, NYC-April 11th and 12th, 1984
In the spring of 1984, P-Funk set up shop at the Ritz for three nights with a tour that supported two album releases, Urban Dancefloor Guerillas and George’s own You Shouldn’t-Nuf-Bit-Fish. Opening up with “Funkentelechy,” the P-Funk All-Stars delivered what could only be described as a whirlwind of Hydraulic Funk. At one point, guitarist Garry Shider played bass. One surprising moment: a Michael Jackson impersonator jumping up onstage near the show’s climax.
THE ROXY, NYC-May 23rd, 1984
After winning tickets courtesy of radio station WBLS (their program director Frankie Crocker hosted this event), I was able to attend this gig which was sort of an early birthday gift. Because the band’s bassist was late, numerous members had to fill that role. At one point, guitarist Garry Shider played. Once the bassist arrived, this particular gig went into what I like to call “Urge Overdrive.” “Atomic Dog” was performed for over 45 minutes, featuring a bass and drum solo. It was the one and only time that I was able to hear the track “Last Dance” live.
THE MAUI NIGHTCLUB, Philadelphia, Pa.-May 3rd, 1994
THE STRAND-Providence, Rhode Island-May 4th, 1994
WESLEYAN COLLEGE-Middletown, Connecticut-May 5th, 1994
The ultimate dream is achieved: the experience of actually touring with the band that represents the center of your consciousness (musically or otherwise). Spending three nights on the P-Funk tour bus would be euphoric without the gigs. The first gig in Philly was marred by an electrical blackout. The second gig in Rhode Island was standard and entertaining. But the last gig in Connecticut was a Funky festival for the senses. Let me state out loud: I LOVE THE COLLEGE GIGS!!! This particular gig ended with almost 100 students flooding the stage during the band’s performance of their timeless Funk anthem “One Nation Under A Groove.”
CENTRAL PARK SUMMERSTAGE, NYC-July 4th, 1996
As Dr. Funkenstein would say, “THIS IS THE BIG ONE!!!” The much-heralded reunion concert brought key P-Funk collaborators Bootsy Collins and Bernie Worrell back home. It was the auspicious event that brought us a brand new awesomely powered Mothership. A four-hour Funk extravaganza that united Funkateers of all races and nationalities. If anyone got Funked up, all that fuss wuz us!
TRIBUTE TO GEORGE CLINTON-APOLLO THEATER, NYC-October 25th, 2011
One glorious night when the Funk celebrated itself. Bootsy Collins, Bernie Worrell, Sheila E. (accompanied by P-Funk vocalist Lynn Mabry), Paul Shaffer, Nona Hendryx, Vernon Reid, Fab 5 Freddy, Dallas Austin, and Full Force came together to honor Dr. Funkenstein for steering the Mothership through almost 50 years of interplanetary musical bliss. It was totally fitting that this celebration would transpire in one of the most celebrated institutions of African-American culture.
My personal relationship with the P-Funk live experience is incomparable. I’ll always cherish and respect the front-row seat I’ve been afforded watching the evolution of one of the greatest live acts in rock history. My analysis of this evolution doesn’t touch upon what transpires backstage; that’s for another time. I’m now witnessing this phenomenon in its final stages. If ever they’re touring close to me, I will be in attendance. As I’ve previously noted, Funk will always represent the center of my consciousness. Parliament-Funkadelic represents the center of that reality. Because they will always take it to the stage and beyond!
Photo: Parliament-Funkadelic (Getty)