“WE. WANT. DUH-FUNK,” a very near capacity crowd holler at George Clinton’s all-star band as the man himself receives a massage off the most beautiful woman in the room to the side of the stage. He smiles broadly and lifts his shades to examine the crowd. He is not present for the set starter, “We Want The Funk” where the chant originates, but his band, which totals thirteen tonight – excluding Mr. Clinton, carry the rhythm section of this song as the crowd take up vocal duties. The rhythm is unquestionably solid, “Boogie” Mossons’ bass licks sounding like caramel as Frankie “Kash” Waddy, looking suspiciously like John Barnes nowadays, keeps time tighter than a Tissot Watch Maker behind his sparkled drumkit. An array of guitarists take turns to add some fine riffs over this groove and it is not surprising to see an already impressed and swaying crowd.
However as fine as twelve minute funk solos are (and this particular one was most definitely enjoyable), it is the introduction of Starbaby, a fifty-six year old African American wearing only a bright Yellow Jacket and a large nappy, that adds a strong, new presence and direction to this seemingly incessant funk. Starbaby’s control over the guitar is impressive, to the point that State can safely declare that he is unquestionably the most impressive guitarist in Pampers the Funk scene has ever bore witness to. He switches between scratchy rhythm and warbled solo licks effortlessly as he waddles around the set staring stony-faced at the crowd. He takes centre stage and leads the band almost telepathically into a new groove. By this time the crowd are swaying and sweaty. Perfect for Mr.Clinton’s entrance.
A low-key appearance for the rainbow-dreadlocked front man is surprising. But then he screams. It was as though James Brown was present and had been given a fine rub with a thick sheet of sandpaper. He shuffles around the stage in a manner unsurprising for a man of his age and given his previous drug history it is perhaps miraculous he can stand at all. He turns to the band, who by this stage have swelled in number and clicks his fingers. They transfix upon him, adjusting their volume to the movements of his arm. He raises it high and they shrill and when it is low they become muted. It’s an old trick that many funk and soul bands have used over the years, but Clinton is no sheep. He soon bends over and controls the band with his bottom. It is as unusual and original as it is hilarious and impressive. Jokes about Bum notes are made and the band giggle like children. He then leaps around and screeches into an array of old hits sending the die-hard fans up the front into a frenzy. His throaty voice is incomparable to any other living act and as a live experience is mesmerising. The quality of sound from the Tripod PA was exceptional, his backing singers complimenting his rusty tones with their soul-twinged harmonies. The horn section sounds like a symphony in itself, though is comprised of two men only – two extraordinarily large men though, it must be said. Altogether it creates a sound like no other, funky and edgy and thoroughly complimentary to Clinton.
Less than forty minutes in, this show has packed in more than most. Some punters are already straining for air and the temperature has become near unbearable. Clinton, perhaps under the heat has unshackled himself from his tight body and now parades around the stage like a man on a mission. Carlos “Sir Nose” McMurray – a pimp in an outfit made of faux-fur with a large, prosthetic nose akin to Pinocchio’s, then arrives to entertain with his contortionist act. He bends and twists as Starbaby screeches into ‘Get up 4 The Down Stroke’, a tune that really comes into its own on stage. It is only a minor element to the show, wholly unnecessary, but definitely enjoyable. With Tripod’s stage approaching maximum capacity, Clinton’s own granddaughter, Sativa, joins the festivities. Named after a breed of cannabis, it is unsurprising that she begins her own segment of the show with the marijuana-inspired ‘Something Stank & I Want Some’. Amazingly, projectiles begin to hurl toward the petite singer. Pre-rolled projectiles. Clinton picks up one such projectile, a small but weighty bag, and smiling, hands it to the delectable Kim Manning, who along with her accompanying back-up singers and McMurray, disappear for a while. I suppose if the band are charging E30 for tickets and splitting the earnings fourteen ways there has to be some way to, ahem, make up the numbers.
With no sign of the funk letting up, some of the crowd make for the doors if only for a breather. Those who remain sway and smile in equal measure. Clinton shows no sign of easing up, nodding through Sativa’s version of ‘Hard as Steel (and Still Getting Harder)’, eventually pulling the mic from her as she ad libs her own lewd lyrics to finish the song for himself. He imposes himself on every song, as he saunters around, arms open calling for cheers. He demands attention – not least for his erratic appearance, but he also seems to undeniably enjoy the centre stage. And the crowd love him there. His raised arms guarantee cheers, his smile is contagious and his voice is more than impressive. He leaves the stage to wild applause and cheers and beams from ear to ear – perhaps he had heard of the impressive merchandise sales, but it is more likely that Mr.Clinton like all superb frontmen was merely satisfied with a job well done.