I assume (probably foolishly) that everyone here is familiar with "IT."
In the 20s, Elinor Glyn wrote a book about "IT," that indefinable
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,
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.
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
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,
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
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
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
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
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
"Okay," I said, "If he starts bringing the roadies on stage next, we take
"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
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,
I did some math, and I have a theory. See, he should have been peaking
just about then.