Updated August 4, 2022 - 10:34 am
North Las Vegas, prepare to get your funk on.
George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic are on descent, playing The Amp at Craig Ranch Regional Park on Aug. 13 (doors at 4, show at 5 p.m.; tickets $55-$225, not including fees). The 81-year-old entertainment trailblazer is heading up the “One Nation Under a Groove Tour,” with Karl Denson’s Tiny Universe, Fishbone and Fantastic Negrito on the bill.
Clinton has been turning on audiences for more than 50 years, as he’s earned the title Godfather of Funk. He gained fame originally with his “Mothership Tour” shows in the 1970s. Clinton discovered Bootsy Collins and produced the Red Hot Chili Peppers early in the band’s evolution. His music has created a path for such artists as Snoop Dogg, Ice Cube and Dr. Dre.
Clinton and his P-Funk outfit (the combo of the Parliament and Funkadelic bands) are lifting the prominence of The Amp, which seats 8,000 and has become a busy entertainment space over the past several months. The venue is booked by JABM Enterprises, formed in 2020 and headed up by CEO Jayson Sawyer, a former software sales exec out of San Jose, California. The company also stages events at The Midway in San Francisco.
Clinton actually cold-called yours truly last week, as we had been trying to lock in an interview time. Similar to Clinton’s live performances, we just let it fly:
Johnny Kats: What is your current environment, George?
George Clinton: Seattle, Washington. Tomorrow Portland, then Eugene. I have the Northwest covered right now.
How are you holding up during these crazy times?
I’m feeling good. I’m glad to get back out on the road. Having lots of fun, all the shows been wild, and we are selling it out. So we have a good time.
What were your earliest impressions of Las Vegas?
From the memories I have, Vegas in the old days was like Havana in the ’50s. It was the American version of that, like the Copacabana, places like that where you really wanted to play. I was fascinated by the Moulin Rouge. It was so long ago for me, but I can tell you one great memory is we played the first-ever show at a nightclub called the Drink. You know that place?
I met Dennis Rodman at the Drink, I think. Also Carrot Top, ages ago. I wish I had seen your show.
This was a fun place. It was a party on the floor, I’ll tell you that. The roof was open. I think we blew it off. (Laughs.) We rocked that place. We have played a few places in Vegas that were like that, just parties. But we broke in the Drink, we were brought in to do that, and we did it.
You like playing Las Vegas?
The height of your dreams now is to play Las Vegas. It’s just become the coolest place to play. But I have always been reluctant to be a resident performer in Vegas. It can be a scary place to play, because it helps you with your habits, you know what I mean. (Laughs.) I can’t allow that to happen, especially with as many musicians that I travel with. For some of these guys, Vegas can give you a whole lot of help in the wrong direction.
On stage, you have always really made a theatrical statement. I think a George Clinton residency could really fly here.
I know the theatrics, I know the costumes and the look of a show, it doesn’t get any better than Vegas. You can get all the special stuff, like the Mothership and things like that, the virtual reality, lasers, the proper toys to play with. I like that.
You’re known as the Godfather of Funk, which I think everyone agrees is deserved. But what is it like for you to be given that title?
I accept it. It is an honor. But you know, there are a whole lot of practitioners who came before myself. James Brown, he was one. And you just need to own the word, the concept, or it will end up that someone else will own it. That’s the best way to keep it alive. I remember when rock ’n’ roll was part of the ghetto, and it became something else in the 1960s and ’70s. Motown was the R&B capital of the world. We had to do something that no one else was doing, so we chose funk. We stayed with it, until it became the DNA of hip-hop. That’s how I intellectualize funk’s history.
You just turned 81, and you’re still touring, as you said bringing the party and selling out. What keeps you young?
I have a bunch of kids with me, I have my grandkids, my kids and their friends, all in the band right now. That keeps you up on what the next generation is doing. We’ve got (the band) 3GP, which is the third-generation P-Funk, and we have the older members playing, and you get them both together. They inspire you, and it keeps you alive.
If you wanted to describe yourself through your music, what would you choose?
I’d probably choose the first Parliament’s breakout, “(I Wanna) Testify,” that era, which was trying to straddle that line between Motown and the rock ’n’ roll that was happening. I always wanted to do a theatrical, R&B-type thing with my music. I have learned a lot about rock ’n’ roll, heavy metal, and tried to create a marriage of styles. I’ve always tried to do that.
You have any message for Vegas before you play here?
Tell everyone when they come to bring two booties.
John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.