For 16 years, the ever-shifting, overlapping line-ups of Parliament, Funkadelic and Bootsy's Rubber Band have contained the best funk musicians anywhere. After three disorganized, unproductive years, 22 of those musicians have reassembled with renewed vitality as George Clinton & the P-Funk All Stars. They climaxed a six-hour funk extravaganza at the Capital Centre Friday night with a dazzling display of virtuoso solos, big-band arrangements, old-fashioned boogie, new wave electronics and circus theatricality.
Presiding as ringmaster was Clinton--the troupe's founder and leader--decked out in scarlet leotards, studded white leather, white furs and a floppy gangster's hat. Using chants, rap, clowning and singing, he connected the band's diverse elements into a coherent ritual, directing the traffic so the troupe's varied talents and styles each got their moment.
The show began with the band's two best singers--diaper-clad Gary Shider and glitter-suited Mudbone Cooper--crooning on the intergalactic funk of "Space People" over Bernie Worrell's boogie-woogie piano vamp. During a long medley of Parliament funk chants, the Baltimore rhythm team of drummer Dennis Chambers and bassist Rodney Curtis excavated the deep groove while the three horns pumped in unison. Funkadelic guitarists Eddie Hazel and Michael Hampton played long, brilliant solos and duets on the slow blues of "Maggot Brain," which ranks with "Layla" and "Elizabeth Reed" as one of rock's great guitar songs.
William (Bootsy) Collins and his band came out for a compelling special guest performance of "Body Slam." Then Clinton took over with his two latest hits, "Atomic Dog" and "Loopzilla," mixing the new music technology with down-and-dirty funk better than anyone else has.
The P-Funk All Stars were preceded by several of their heirs. Con Funk Shun, a Memphis septet, has always been one of the best mainstream funk outfits. The group showed why with the precise, muscular groove of up-tempo funk such as "Ffun" and the strong melodies of slow-grind ballads like "Love's Train."
Washington's own Trouble Funk has reworked the P-Funk sound for the '80s by stripping it down to its basics. Result: more minimalist music with lots of open spaces around Mac Carey's powerful drumming. Its show was an hour-long medley of chants, synthesizer colors and short horn fills, all held together by an unyielding beat. Washington's aspiring rap singer, Iceberg Slim, was backed by Trouble Funk in the opening set.