Walter Tunis: George Clinton and his band bring signature groove to Buster's

Contributing Music WriterOctober 11, 2012 

Rock Hall Concert

George Clinton, known for his usually wild attire, played it straight during a performance at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum induction ceremony in Cleveland in April.



    Jorma Kaukonen at Natasha's Bistro & Bar: It was Sunday night, and Jorma Kaukonen was definitely feeling the spirit. Perhaps that's why he initiated a two-set performance that ran merrily past 2½ hours with a 40-year-old Hot Tuna original called True Religion.

    It was a nimble, unassuming bit of testifying, to be sure. In fact, the guitarist and Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee bequeathed most of the song's solo sections to longtime mandolinist/sidekick Barry Mitterhoff. But the resulting feel — the jubilant but wary country-blues spiritualism that would be addressed later in the evening through songs from bluesmen like the Rev. Gary Davis, Lightning Hopkins and Leroy Carr — was pure Kaukonen.

    Time was when a Kaukonen show would vary little from one by Hot Tuna, the longstanding blues unit the guitarist has led with fellow Jefferson Airplane alumnus Jack Casady. That was especially true when it came to repertoire. This outing, however, shifted course.

    Sure, there were Hot Tuna staples like Hesitation Blues, How Long Blues and Death Don't Have No Mercy. Kaukonen didn't write any of them, of course. But given the singular blues voice with which he has fortified the songs over the years, not to mention the assured versions offered here, he might as well have. But this performance also mixed in tunes from three Kaukonen solo albums and a new Hot Tuna recording, all of which were released during the past decade and featured Mitterhoff.

    Highlights of the newer works included a revivalistic Children of Zion (another Davis gem), a lullabylike Heart Temporary (with Mitterhoff on bouzouki) and the life cycle title tune to 2009's River of Time.

    While much of the material possessed a sense of rootsy affirmation, there was also a devilish side to the performance. The title tune to Kaukonen's overlooked 1980 album Barbeque King was all earthy indulgence drenched in a bluesy dressing that matched the tune's lyrical debauchery.

    But atonement came by way of the encore — the 1967 Airplane classic Embryonic Journey, a fingerpicking original that concluded this immensely spirited and satisfying Sunday service with a slice of solace.

George Clinton and Parliament-Funkadelic

9 p.m. Oct. 12 at Buster's Billiards & Backroom, 899 Manchester St. $30. (859) 368-8871.

Among the performance noms de plume George Clinton assumed in the late '70s was Dr. Funkenstein. That was when his Parliament-Funkadelic collective was offering a neo-psychedelic groove alternative to a then full-blown disco movement — and chalking up five-digit attendance figures at area concerts, including a 1977 date at Rupp Arena.

The character was a space-suited, Afro-centric and fully empowered performance creation. It also was the commercial summit of a wildly progressive R&B career that had begun creating a fan base more than a decade earlier.

But here's the wild part. With his return to Lexington on Friday with a concert at Buster's Billiards & Backroom, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Clinton, 71, will truly be Dr. Funkenstein.

Not exactly in name. The costuming — most of it, anyway — and theatrics will be replaced by a more streamlined merger of the rugged funk and soul that Clinton has pioneered with Parliament and the more guitar-fortified psychedelia he simultaneously piloted with Funkadelic. But having received an honorary doctorate in February from the prestigious Berklee College of Music in Boston, the artist may be addressed as Doctor. OK, maybe he isn't really Dr. Funkenstein on paper, but he is now and forever Dr. Clinton.

Will that figure prominently into what Clinton will offer at Friday's show? Perhaps not.

Expect the performance to be the usual P-Funk party, from soul-savvy Parliament hits such as Flashlight to epic Funkadelic guitar workouts such as Maggot Brain and more. And it probably will be loose in design, with a lengthy roster of artists that will expand and contract, allowing the music to indulge in everything from massive funk party pieces to extended groove jams.

In short, the doctor will be in, very in. And he will be staying put for a while, too. It's nothing for a Clinton concert to bleed past two or three hours in length, so plan to make a long night of it all.

Henry Rollins: 'Capitalism'

7:30 p.m. Oct. 12 at the Grand Theatre, 308 St. Clair St. in Frankfort. $15, $25. (502) 352-7469.

What would a presidential election season be without a visit from Henry Rollins?

Sure, the program that the vanguard punk metalhead-turned-spoken word artist is bringing to Frankfort's Grand Theatre on Friday is titled Capitalism. And, yes, we can pretty much bank on him having a lot to share on the subject. But with Election Day less than four weeks away, it's an equally sure bet that Rollins will have his say about the candidates.

As he is a fervent supporter of the Rock the Vote voter-registration campaign, expect him to emphasize, as much as any of his political preferences or observations, the basic need to show up at the polls Nov. 6.

From there, there is no telling just what direction Rollins' performance will take. When he appeared at Buster's in Lexington in April 2010 as part of his Frequent Flyer Tour, Rollins' talking points included health care reform, conservative commentator Ann Coulter, Catholicism, portraying a white supremacist on the TV drama Sons of Anarchy, Sri Lankan death metal and the act of gorging himself at a Monday Night Football party hosted by William Shatner ("I looked like a leper with half of an Impala in his gut").

Can Rollins' concept of capitalism cover an equally diverse set of topics? Be on hand at the Grand and find out.

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