George Clinton and his P-Funk crew have gone through countless changes since their heyday in the 70s and 80s. Along the way, their catalog became the reservoir for rap beats, with Dr. Dre and others liberally sampling their unique grooves. Clinton’s musical and biological family grew, and he now shares the stage with his rapping grandchildren and other young disciples. Key members such as Bootsy Collins parted ways with Clinton and company, and just months ago, the band lost Garry “Diaper Man” Shider.
But despite these changes and losses, P-Funk continues to pack venues, including Boston’s House of Blues. The live music hasn’t lost any of its funk, and their visual theatrics remain as bizarre, fun, and over-the-top as ever. Clinton eschewed his trademark rainbow hair for a black do-rag, with only his distinct, gravelly voice setting him apart from his huge, colorfully-costumed ensemble. He and the young Turks lined up by their mics and got the party started with the still-anthemic chant “Give Up The Funk,” driven by the stinging horns of Bennie Cowan’s trumpet and Greg Thomas’s sax.
The band kept the energy up for a long set of funk classics, including “Flash Light” and “Up For The Down Stroke.” They got help from huge, full-body puppets constantly roaming the stage, including various grotesque monsters and a giant skull smoking a giant joint. In some more serious moments, Clinton, always a democratic bandleader, often stepped aside and lent the spotlight to a band mate. Longtime lead guitarist Michael Hampton performed P-Funk’s lighter-waving solo, “Maggot Brain.” In a beautifully dirty number taking the “House of Blues” name literally, Mary Griffin performed Aretha Franklin’s “Dr. Feelgood.”
But in the end, the P-Funk stage show concludes just as it should: in a fun, ridiculous fashion. The star of the finale, “Atomic Dog,” is an eponymous full-body dog puppet, complete with dog ears, shades, dangling tongue, and a long, lanky body jumping around to the groove. The crew then left the stage one-by-one to “Knee Deep.” The lights came on, the venue reiterating the midnight closing time. The bandmates trickled out, with only a drummer, puppets roaming the house, and the chanting crow keeping the beat going. "Ain't no party like a P-Funk party cause a P-Funk party don’t stop,” the audience continued to yell in unison, even as Clinton, his crew, and the venue wrapped up for the night.