Alive at 5 Festival Stamford, Connecticut
Take 3,000 or so people of every race, creed, color and age, put them in a narrow outdoor free concert space sandwiched between a variety of packed restaurants and bars, and you have the makings of a memorable P-Funk show.
Now I’ve been to some dozen plus Parliament-Funkadelic shows over thirty years. And in all honesty, this was far from the best or worst I’ve ever seen.
What it was, actually, was the shortest.
Clocking in at a “mere” 90 minutes due to curfew, with George not taking the stage for the first 20 or so, one questioned the necessity of two opening bands. Nonetheless George and massive crew were sizzling. Maybe with less time to stretch out, the pressure was on to hit the stage running and they did just that. And the highly appreciative audience ate up every bit of it.
Adding to the fun, I took a buddy who is a poet and psychologist who leans toward jazz, classical and rock music. He barely knew who George was, but was immediately caught up in the combination of craziness and brilliance. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” he kept repeating. He actually pointed out to me that one brief refrain was a Zappa number and that George was in the spirit of both Zappa and Captain Beefheart, which I readily agreed with. Now said friend had spent the previous night at a Jimmy Webb show. In case you’re not familiar with the name, Webb is a revered songwriter who has written such chestnuts as Up, Up, and Away, MacArthur Park, and Wichita Lineman.
This was as far from a Jimmy Webb show as my pal was going to get.
“We’re not in Kansas anymore,” I told him.
This was evidenced clearly by one of my faves in Ms. Belita Woods. With her Billie Holliday and Macy Gray kind of “in her own zone” groove, she’d be a perfect jazz singer in a club somewhere in outer space in a Star Wars flick. When she started doing Sentimental Journey my friend the jazz buff just laughed joyfully and marveled at her wild interpretation, particularly when George “barked” along with her in his own inimitable gravelly singing style.
Speaking of style, Mr. Clinton was almost subdued in a mostly white outfit with orange headdress. He would have fit right in the nightclubs and bars overlooking the stage. He reminded me of a quite mad (in a good way that is) conductor, at times with his back to the audience, leading the twenty or so musicians and singers in a joyful, and at times almost operatic, noise.
To see thousands of people, including a “new audience” of young White kids grooving to all this and buying tons of P-Funk merchandise was great. To see the same White kids puking at our feet from overindulging in the readily available brew, and us literally scrambling to avoid projectile puke, was far less quaint. Guess there’s good and bad in everything.
George Clinton turns 69 years old next week. While many his age sit in senior centers playing cards and waiting ‘till they reach the pearly gates, he’s still on the road, still tireless, and still beyond great, taking us on a musical trip through a galaxy he created.
I love the guy with all my heart.
NAOMI SHELTON AND THE GOSPEL QUEENS
METRO TECH BAM R&B FEST- BROOKLYN, NY
Naomi Shelton is a Daptone Records gospel singer and label mate of the great Sharon Jones.
Backed by three female singers, her music is uplifting, joyful, and warm. As is she.
“Thank you, kindly,” she said again and again after most songs in her hour fifteen set. And she clearly meant it.
Now I’m not going to lie and say I enjoyed this old school gospel show more than a Hezikiah Walker or Kirk Franklin gig with their zillion member choirs and R&B vibe which is more “my thing.” But enjoy Ms. Shelton I did, as clearly did every single person in attendance.
And after the show, when I bought a 45 (yes, you read that right) from her, she literally hugged and kissed me.
And it’s not every day you get a kiss from a Queen.
Naomi Shelton regularly plays in the NYC area as well as tours. Catch her when you can. You’ll feel good that you did.