Just when I thought my holidays were an official bust, I got a highly confidential phone call that would change my maddeningly dull New Year weekend.
Instead of joining the SoCal ranks and hitting up one of the many New Year's Eve celebrations, I was the victim of a nasty headache. No, I am not usually prone to migraines. I guess I had way too much on my mind, as I waited for my family to return from their badly timed trip to Israel. More on that later…
After my long distance calls and night of CNN watching, my brain overloaded a bit and I had to pass on any partying. I had no idea how much I would make up for lost time!
The next Friday (January 2), my cell phone jumped to life, with a call from a good friend of mine. As usual, he had the lowdown on the upcoming throwdown! After a quick conversation, I got myself together and jumped in the ride. I was about to watch the legendary Mothership land, once again, as George Clinton returned to Los Angeles!
If you are one of my faithful readers, you may remember my last concert review of Parliament/Funkadelic , when I caught them at Crash Mansion. This time around, they were about two blocks away from the now closed Mansion, as they helped break in the brand spanking new Nokia Theater L.A. Live Center, the recently opened entertainment center that sits next to The Staples Center, and down the block from the Los Angeles Convention Center.
As I walked into the neon-lit, bustling Nokia L.A. Live, I saw my homey, who gave the nod to the two security guards manning the door. They gave me the "holy grail" of concert goers, music journalists, and fans and I knew my holiday had begun. I was just handed the all access pass!
I bounced to the backstage area and started talking to random musicians and party people. The venue is very impressive, with a huge general admittance floor area and theater balcony seats that seemed to go for miles. After shaking a few hands, exploring every inch of the Nokia Live, and catching a few drinks at the bar, I got lost in the back halls and was knee deep in a conversation before I heard the bass echos. Damn it, they are all onstage already, I thought, and raced back to the crowd. Garry "Starchild" Shidder and the band were raising it up and the crowd were on their feet!
This would be my third time catching Parliament-Funkadelic. I caught them in New York at the legendary club Tramps, before they closed down for good. That night they tore the roof off after about four hours of funking around. That was my first toast to the boogie. The Club Mansion gig was memorable as well, but none of those shows would match tonight's performance!
Not that the show was the most mind blowing set of noise from Uncle Jam and the boys. It clearly was not for many reasons. But it was one of the funkiest I think I will ever see as there were at least 30 different players, singers, and damn near the entire nation was in the house and under the groove!
If you were there that night, and it felt like someone pulled the plug on the show, it's because they did! Kinda. Starchild and Belita Woods didn't even have time to get warmed up good before the band lost power to their back line! George hadn't even took it to the stage yet, as the keyboards, some guitars and God knows what else, just disappeared!
Starchild looked back and forth, raising his hand to his ear in a attempt to communicate to the engineers. The drummer never lost the beat, and soon George came out to see what was going on. Seems the new venue has a few bugs to work out. I don't think they ever got the sound back completely after that. Good thing Uncle Jam is a vet, hell he did have his own army after all!
The Funk Mob kept it funky, as usual, and basically went into a jam session! They got the crowd in the mix with alot of call and response ("ahhhh skeet skeet skeet skeet skeet skeet" and "shit…gaaddaammnn…get off your azz and jam"), and some freestlye rapping with his son and later on with his grand daughter Sativa, as the band took inventory and re-organized.
They played most of their hits after that, but the audience definitely lost some of the funk, as the keyboards never came to life. It was hard to tell that the crowd even noticed, as they were loving every minute of the improv sets and George Clinton's verbal toe jam and crazy rhymes! At one point George told the crowd that they were just "gonna play some shit until they figured the sound out," who knew it would be the hottest shit that The Mob has played in years.
I continued to run back and forth, from the crowd to backstage to catch the full experience of the show. People in the balcony gave up their seats and were dancing in the aisles, as the folks in the general admission area got loose! It looked like everyone was dancing, and I caught myself getting a little loose with the traditional two step, giving it a few extra moves and grooves!
Just as the show got cranking, BAM ! Power goes out again, this time it seemed to effect the other side of the stage with the only thing left standing were the drum, horn and vocal mics. Another band might have given up right then. Not P-Funk. They kept it moving until the currents kicked back in, never missing a beat! I didn't think the crowd could get anymore excited than they were right then. The next song would change that.
As P-Funk ripped into a fiery version of "I Wanna Take You Higher," George stepped to the microphone and introduced his special surprise guest. The crowd roared their approval as the one and only Sly Stone walked out on stage! The reclusive rock and soul superstar has made a few random appearances and performances as of late.
Even though he is making a return to the stage, any sighting of Mr. Stone is welcomed by any real music fan! His appearance tonight is no exception. He finished the too quick set with a poem and "Thank You Falettin Me Be Mice Elf Agin" as George sang back up. George gave Sly a big, hearty hug before he walked out stage right. I happened to be standing stage right at that precise moment, and I managed to give a stunned wave and smile to Sly, who beamed smiles back to me and everyone around, as he left. I stood in amazement, realizing the history I was standing in for a second, as P-Funk went into "Flashlight," "Not Just Knee Deep," "Mothership Connection" and a string of their hits before closing the show.
I snapped a few more pictures, and laughed with my friend on how incredibly off the chain the night turned out, listening to a live P-Funk jam session, onstage with a few thousand people looking on. I managed to blend in with the band as they left the stage, walked back through the corridors and out to their waiting limos.
Nice, free, unorganized musical clutter from the illest band in the world, partying onstage with Sir Nose, Kidd Funkadelic, and the whole crew, is just what party people in LA got, one day after New Years! As I rode home, all thoughts of my holidays being boring were long gone, replaced by a funky good time with Uncle Jam and the boys!
You can catch George Clinton with Parliament Funkadelic in a town near you soon. Make sure you check them out, and enjoy the pics below!