By Cameron Lee
August 13, 2023
Photo: Jeff Howlett / CLTure
George Clinton famously and humorously says that he was born in an outhouse in Kannapolis, North Carolina, a statement solidifying that he was literally born into the funk. The Rock & Roll Hall of Famer and Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award winner has been a force in music for an unprecedented six decades. Beginning with his early doo-wop days (The Parliaments originated as a barbershop quintet in the late ’50s), Clinton has become one of the most sampled artists in history, heavily influencing genres like funk, hip-hop, rock, and R&B. On Thursday night in Charlotte at The Fillmore, a near sold-out crowd witnessed what might have been his final performance in the city.
Before Clinton and his Parliament-Funkadelic collective took the stage, Los Angeles ska-funk rockers Fishbone performed for the first time in Charlotte since 2013. The rambunctious genre-bending group fuses elements of ska, punk, funk, metal, reggae, and soul, and has been steadily touring since the ‘80s. With most of their original band members now reunited after several iterations of the group over the years, the band put on an animated performance. They kicked off the set with their latest single from a self-titled EP released in May, “Estranged Fruit,” an ode to Billie Holiday and Abel Meeropol’s classic protest song, “Strange Fruit.”
The seven-piece band led by the eccentric Angelo Moore, brought a spirited performance to the Fillmore with a set that featured their always cheery “Everyday Sunshine” from their 1991 album, The Reality of My Surroundings, and “Alcoholic” which included a brief mashup of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man.”
Of course, it’s always entertaining to see Moore playing his massive bass saxophone and tinkering with his atypical frequency-driven electronic instrument, the theremin. Following the performance, Moore took some time to sign records and take photos with fans at their merch booth, much to the delight of many of his admirers.
When George Clinton announced the Just For The Funk Of It Final Tour?!? in April, many assumed it might be the very last time they’d get a chance to see the musical trailblazer live and in person. In recent years, Clinton has allowed his rotating cast of Parliament-Funkadelic band members to do the heavy work while he orchestrates the sounds that have defined and revolutionized not only funk, but Black music for over 50 years. While recent tours have been hinted at being his very last, any chance to be in the same building as the now 82-year-old icon is a special one.
With an American flag donning the words “One Nation Under A Groove,” their performance felt like a celebratory family affair, passing the legacy to the next generation of Afro-futuristic funk purveyors, like drummer Benjamin “Benzel” Cowan, the son of longtime P-Funk trumpeter Bennie “The General” Cowan, and Garret Shider, singer, guitarist, and son of the late Parliament-Funkadelic bandleader, Garry Shider.
The troop brought a high-energy set full of crowd participation kicking it off with “Nappy Dugout” from the 1973 Funkadelic album, Cosmic Slop. With the majority of the set featuring songs from Funkadelic albums, Clinton engaged with the crowd at just the right times to draw loud applause, conserving his energy throughout the night. By far, the high points of the evening were “One Nation Under A Groove,” “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker),” from 1975’s classic album, Mothership Connection, and “Atomic Dog,” Clinton’s 1982 hit single, widely popularized in the ‘90s by Snoop Dogg’s “What’s My Name” and for being a Omega Psi Phi Fraternity anthem.
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Following the Thursday night’s performance, many of the Parliament-Funkadelic members went to Plaza Midwood’s Snug Harbor to jam out, and Clinton visited G.W. Carver Elementary School in his hometown of Kannapolis to meet with students and teachers on Friday. Though we may not know if this was Clinton and his tribe’s last performance in Charlotte, they certainly made it a memorable visit and, with many of his family collective members around him, we know the funk is in good hands for years to come.
Parliament-Funkadelic (with George Clinton) Setlist:
“Get Off Your Ass and Jam”
“Zomby Woof instrumental”
“One Nation Under a Groove”
“(Not Just) Knee Deep”
“Make My Funk the P-Funk”
“Up for the Down Stroke”
“Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker)”
“Bonin’ in the Boneyard”
“Question of Life”
“Ma and Pa”
“All We Have Is Now”
“Alcoholic” / “Iron Man” by Black Sabbath
“Skankin’ to the Beat”
“I Don’t Care”
“Party at Ground Zero”