LIVE REVIEW: George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic @ O2 Academy, Newcastle (24.4.15) | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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It was 6.50pm and I was a little worried. The O2 Academy was less than a third full and Funkadelic were due onstage in 10 minute. I was livid. This is George Clinton. George. Clinton. I needn’t have worried. By the time they emerged on-stage at 7.10 the place was rammed and Uncle Jam, dressed in a snappy suit, had launched us into three hours of unrelenting funk. This was the last gig of the First Ya Gotta Shake the Gate tour, which had kicked off in the US and made its way through Australia and Japan, so the band were supercharged.

Funkadelic is a beast of a band; on top of the usual bass and drums there were three keyboards, three guitars, at least six lead singers, at least four backing singers, with a very excited, young Mr T and Sir Nose funkin’ about on stage. I feel for the sound engineers as the funkateers were swapping mics, taking solos and mixing it up constantly. Surrounded by his family, George Clinton exuded class, apart from maybe what he did with the mic stand, which will remain between him and the people there on the night…but this 74 year old’s energy and showmanship is as good as any younger man, even if his vocal chords are beginning to suffer the effects of time.

Endorphins peaked repeatedly as classic Funkadelic tracks were blasted at us full force, interspersed with fresh tracks from their new album and even some B sides to thrill the true enthusiasts. There were a lot of free minds onstage and off, and plenty of asses were following, and not just knee deep, apart from maybe the pint-size sax player who was on fire and blew us away with some insane vocals, as did each and every sole who took control of a mic.

DeWayne ‘Blackbyrd’ McKnight, original member and newly discovered cousin of Hannabiell (of Midnight Blue) took the man of the match award for his mesmerising use of the guitar. A Funkadelic-Parliament lyric goes ‘who says a funk and can’t play rock?’ Damn straight. They played rock, funk, soul, jazz and more than a bit of hip hop, but Blackbyrd’s shredding solos will definitely live longest in the memory.

Sir Nose made an entrance and performed some contortion gymnastics, clambering up on the amps while Tra’zae Lewis-Clinton held them steady and the funkadelic feel of chaos and anarchy was gleefully maintained. The 10pm curfew was the only thing that prevented these guys from funkin’ on through the night. Even at 10.10, when the stage lights went out and some amps were killed, they didn’t stop, playing on at least another ten minutes, much to the joy of the baying crowd who hadn’t moved an inch. It was only the presentation of the end of tour celebratory cake that finally got them off stage.

It was an incredible gig and the hype and showmanship of the occasion could have overshadowed the stunning musical performances on display, but thankfully quality always shines through. I was lucky enough to meet George after the gig, when I was reminded of his age and fragility. That just made the energy he espoused onstage all the more important. A new roof for the academy please!

Read Joe’s extended interview with George Clinton here.

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