Live music review: George Clinton, Vicar Street, Dublin

George Clinton: Still grooving at 72.

****

George Clinton is spiritual godfather to the present generation of politically outspoken hip hop artists. Long before Black Lives Matter, he was giving voice to the fear and outrage of his community. In its fervency, intelligence and musical ambition, Clinton’s 1975 funk opus Chocolate City, in particular, foreshadowed mavericks such as Kendrick Lamar and Flying Lotus.

He was also a mentor to Prince, who turned to the more established musician for advice early in his career (he would cheekily borrow several members of Clinton’s backing band). And Clinton was among the first to recognise the potency of gangsta rappers such as NWA, whose twinkling vitriol he hailed as the next leap forward from his own funk machinations.

By remaining engaged, Clinton has kept his music fresh and edgy. Bringing his sprawling Funkadelic/Parliament supergroup to Dublin, the now 72-year-old was a grinning ringmaster around whom was arranged a thrilling carnival of funk. But the evening was thoroughly grounded in the present and, Clinton’s multi-coloured, glam-rock overcoat aside, the whiff of nostalgia was kept at arm’s length.

Clinton no longer brings a levitating space-ship on tour — a signature of his Seventies shows. Yet there was still lots at which to marvel. Rappers, rhymers and a sax player with Olympic class lungs were flanked by backing singers and a co-vocalist who came on in super-sized mirror shades and later returned dressed as a retro-sic fi Beyonce.

Because Clinton’s vocals aren’t as herculean as of old, much of the heavy lifting was left to his acolytes. But he was by no means a a bystander to his own concert and his singing, at once gruff and tender, electrified version of Meow Meow and Atomic Dog, and this defining hit One Nation Under A Groove.

“Are you ready to have a good time?” he asked at one point. The blinding grin he flashed at the crowd confirmed he too was in the mood for the mother of all parties.


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