The last time George Clinton came to the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, it was rumored that the show would be his final performance with Parliament-Funkadelic in the “City of Angels” before he stepped into retirement. Then, the beloved music legend kept on touring because, apparently, the people still wanted the funk and George wasn’t about to deny them that.
So if there was any skepticism about Clinton’s latest turn with P-Funk at the Greek being his last in L.A., it would’ve been understandable. Yet the 78-year-old has been clear that his current One Nation Under a Groove Tour would mark the end of his six-plus decades in the business. If his show in Los Feliz on the first Friday on August was any indication, it’s been a fitting finale for one of the wildest rides the music world has ever seen.
P-Funk’s performances are always parties. The band regularly fills whatever stage it finds itself on with performers in colorful costumes and, more often than not, a selection of enthusiastic audience members, while keeping the crowd that remains in its seats on its collective feet. This being a retirement party and all, George had to bring some of his friends along, many–if not all–of whom owe their careers to the funk pioneer.
The evening began with a 20-minute set from Miss Velvet and the Blue Wolf, whose gritty brand of rock and roll will get an infusion of funk from “Dr. Funkenstein” himself on its upcoming second album, Feed the Wolf.
The tone then shifted from Miss Velvet’s New York fusion to an always-appropriate helping of New Orleans funk with 20 minutes of joyful jamming from Dumpstaphunk. Featuring Ivan Neville holding it down on vocals and keys alongside Tony Hall and Nick Daniels III on bass, Ian Neville on guitar, Alvin Ford Jr. on drums, and Alex Wasily and Ryan Nyther on horns, the 16-year conglomerate brought the house down with a trio of tunes, including the 2017 hit single, “Justice”.
Whatever was left of the house was subsequently sent into a celebratory smolder by the hectic and eclectic stylings of Fishbone. The ska-funk metal outfit, which first formed in L.A.’s San Fernando Valley 40 years ago, kept their energy going strong through their own 20-minute supporting set. Angelo Moore, in particular, was as frenetic as ever, bouncing around the stage—and traipsing through the crowd—while sizzling along on vocals and saxophone to “Party at Ground Zero”, with dancing cameos from his theremin.
Those acts all served as a prelude for the all-out party which George and P-Funk brought to bear near Griffith Park. For some 90 minutes, the expansive band rattled through hits from all corners of George’s catalog. From Parliament’s “Flash Light”, “Give Up the Funk”, “Mothership Connection”, and “P-Funk”, to Funkadelic’s “One Nation Under a Groove”, “Knee Deep”, “Super Stupid”, and “Get Off Your Ass and Jam”, to George’s own “Atomic Dog”, the group brought the noise and the funk. The performance also included notable nods to the science-fiction psychedelia which the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer brought into the parlance of American pop culture.
In truth, George took it fairly easy on stage. By and large, he spent P-Funk’s set shuffling to the rhythm, sitting down to admire the melange of humanity before him, and occasionally hopping on the microphone to recite some of his signature lines—all while wearing a bedazzled military cap and shimmering golden cape adorned with diamonds spelling out his name. He left the heavy lifting—including some literally pulling of fans from the front pit onto the stage—to the sprier members of his funky collective, including his grandsons Shawn “Yung POPular” Clinton and Tracy “Tra’Zae” Clinton. The two brought P-Funk’s influence on hip hop full circle by strutting their own rhymes for the thousands of revelers at the Greek.
This particular transition is nothing new for P-Funk. George has taken more and more of a backseat with the band over the years, leaving the second and third generations of P-Funk to assume center stage. Not that his shifting role made his final show in L.A. any less emotional. At times, it appeared as though George was fighting back farewell tears amid the usual spate of performative sweat.
The passing of the band’s torch figures to continue past mid-August, even as George’s run with P-Funk comes to an end. Given how well his descendants (genetic and otherwise) have assumed the band’s mantle—and the extent to which Miss Velvet and the Blue Wolf, Dumpstapunk and Fishbone have extended his influence into adjacent genres—George’s legacy with P-Funk specifically and funk music generally appears to be in good hands going forward.
Scroll down for a photo gallery from Friday’s performance, courtesy of photographer Josh Martin.