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Clinton funks up the House of Blues

Vanessa Smith
Clinton funks up the House of Blues
Legendary funk singer George Clinton performs at a concert in 2005. Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic performed to a sold-out crowd Wednesday, Feb. 25, 2009, at the new House of Blues on Lansdowne Street. (Photo: AP /Keystone, Laurent Gillieron)

If you wanted the funk, the new House of Blues on Lansdowne Street was the place to be last Wednesday night.

George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic performed to a sold-out crowd at the venue that was once Avalon. The show was everything a George Clinton performance should be — chaotic, spontaneous and, most important, funky.

Things got off to a late start, and the opening acts, while trying to evoke the spirit of P-Funk, were not enough to appease the funk-hungry crowd of about 2,300.

Clinton and crew more than made up for any early evening lag, though, playing a colorful three-hour set that ended only when the club pulled the plug. Literally. At 1:30 a.m., the House of Blues actually cut the sound. But of course, that didn’t stop Clinton and P-Funk from singing anyway.

Rocking his rainbow-colored hair and a glittery black suit, Clinton was a masterful ringleader of his own circus. At one point, there were as many as four backup singers — one of whom was on roller skates — and six guitarists, including Gary “Diaper Man” Shider. Clinton, 67, was more than generous with the spotlight, allowing several of his family members to have some stage time to sing their own songs.

While the energy was strong, the live show lacked the complex storyline of some of Clinton’s earlier albums and efforts. He sings less now, often relying on backup vocalists to fill out the vocal sound.

But Clinton still leads all the chants and uses his guttural screams to get the audience moving, and he and P-Funk still managed to paint a stunning picture for the audience, evoking the alien Starchild (Clinton) who brought funk to the universe and the “maggot brains” who are too small-minded to appreciate it.

They played a wide sampling of tunes, including hits like “Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof off the Sucker)” and “P-Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up),” before ending with the ever-popular “Flash Light.”

One thing was certain: There was no lack of appreciation for funk at this show, and the diversity of the crowd that packed the House of Blues to see the show served as a testament to the universality of P-Funk’s music.

Honestly: Where else in Boston would you see white college students dancing and singing alongside middle-aged African Americans?

There is a sense of harmony and togetherness that P-Funk brings to the stage every time they perform, giving at least symbolic confirmation that at the end of the day, we can all be “one nation under a groove.”

Everyone in attendance was into the vibe, chanting along whenever Clinton extended his microphone to the audience. Diaper Man even stopped the whole show once, simply so he could marvel at the size of the crowd and the number of hands in the air.

With its amazing sound system, the new House of Blues is a great place to see a band with bass lines as heavy as P-Funk’s. The vocals were crisp, too: From any spot in the room, it was possible to hear George Clinton imploring you to “get off your [butt] and dance.”

And dance everyone did, including the backup singers, one of whom booty-popped all the way around the stage toward the end of the show.

Whether they came to hear a few favorites or to get introduced to a whole new world of sound, it would have been hard for audience members to leave disappointed. Clinton and P-Funk proved last Wednesday night that they still have what it takes to make the crowd long for some more of that sweet, nasty funk.