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by Meredith Tanner

I assume (probably foolishly) that everyone here is familiar with "IT." In the 20s, Elinor Glyn wrote a book about "IT," that indefinable something that makes some people so unforgettable. Clara Bow was declared the epitome of "IT," and starred in the movie of the same name. Given a few minutes, we can all come up with a list of people who had "IT." Humphrey Bogart had "IT." Robert F. Kennedy had "IT." The Beatles had "IT." Richard Nixon -- well, okay, maybe not Nixon, but you get the idea, right? Anyway, the point is that much to my disappointment and surprise, George Clinton does not have "IT."

In this case, "IT" would be defined as "the Funk", and while Clinton is undeniably funky in the extreme, he does not have the Funk. Now, perhaps he had the Funk at one time. Perhaps he's just misplaced the Funk. Maybe he left it on his nightstand with his false teeth and his nitroglycerine pills. Maybe there were just too many white people in the audience to get a good vibe going. The fact remains, however, that this past Saturday night at the San Francisco Maritime Hall, George Clinton and the P-Funk All-Stars were conspicuously lacking in Funk.

When my friends and I arrived at the show, things were looking good. There was an enormous throng waiting to get in. On our way up to the balcony seats we passed a number of vendors set up in the hallway, selling tie-dyed things and incense and essential oils. Total strangers offered us psychedelics. Inside the hall, a thick, pungent cloud hung over the assembled guests, not quite overwhelmed by the heavy scent of the flowers that had been given to each concertgoer on the way in. I had a powerful suspicion that somewhere out there, concealed by the haze, someone was inhaling. My suspicion was immediately proved correct by the people behind me, in front of me, and to my right.

I began to form a theory, which was confirmed by the next thing one of my comrades said to me. The theory: P-Funk is rapidly becoming the new Grateful Dead. I mean, I didn't see any grilled cheese sandwiches, but all of the other familiar trappings were present. What my friend (we'll call him Leroy, to protect the guilty) said: "Whoa! I'm starting to feel   something!" (I'll assume I don't have to translate that for you.)

We watched the band set up for about 45 minutes, which Leroy found considerably more interesting than the rest of us did, and eventually the show started, seeming almost to be an afterthought. A couple of guys wandered onstage, a couple more wandered off, someone started playing, and then George Clinton sauntered out, clad in a giant lime-green and orange poncho.

I was immediately struck by how little stage presence he had. I suppose I'd been expecting someone taller, metaphorically speaking. I began to understand the reason for the hairstyle and the poncho -- without them, he'd be practically invisible. He strode back and forth, gesturing and chatting with the audience, throughout the 20-minute opening number. I kept waiting for him to get cranked up, for the energy level to rise, for the whole thing to suddenly come to life and knock my socks off...

It didn't happen. Not during the first number, or the second, or the third, or the fourth. The band was disorganized and amateurish; there was none of the tightness and precision I associate with good funk. I can't tell you how it is that 21 guys crammed onto a tiny stage in front of a screaming, adoring audience managed to be boring, but somehow they did. During the fifth number I found myself yawning compulsively. By the sixth, when Clinton brought his granddaughter on stage to rap, I was having trouble keeping my eyes open. I took out my earplugs, hoping the increased noise level would help me stay awake, but it wasn't enough.

Leroy had taken off a few minutes earlier to cruise the dance floor for funky chyx or something; my remaining comrade and I exchanged beleaguered looks.

"Okay," I said, "If he starts bringing the roadies on stage next, we take off."

"Sounds like a plan," he agreed. Two minutes later, we were out the door.

Now, you should understand that this is hurting me more than it's hurting George. He'll never even see this review, but I am overcome with bitter disappointment. It gnaws at me like a wild animal and poisons my credibility. "No way," my friends protest. "George is the coolest! He can't  suck!" Some fall to their knees, begging for reassurance; others dismiss me as an ignorant lunatic. It's a hard life. Pity me.

The next day when we spoke to Leroy, he told us we'd missed out. "The show got really hot  after midnight!" he insisted. Well, maybe, but I did some math, and I have a theory. See, he should have been peaking just about then.

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