Published Jun 29, 2011"Funk is its own reward" was one of Parliament Funkadelic's many catchphrases. On this night, it definitely was proven correct because it took some time to get to that stone cold funky payoff.
Trombone Shorty was an admirable opening act. The trombonist/trumpeter came to prominence through his work with fellow Montreal Jazz Festival performers Galactic, and his high energy N'awlins funk has stirred many a festival crowd's gumbo. He laid on the power chords surprisingly thick in a cover of "Let's Get It On," but the highlight of his set was a deceptively heavy take on the old standard "Sunny Side of the Street," in which Shorty used circular breathing to hold a note for over 100 bars on the trumpet. The audience gasped in disbelief then called out for more; this was the single finest moment of the night.
The main event took a while to emerge after a long break, but blew away any dissipating energy in the crowd. Making his first appearance in Montreal since 1998, Bootsy sported a truly massive bass rig and 14 of his finest funky friends, including the welcome surprise of crucial P-Funkateers Bernie Worrell and Blackbyrd Mcknight, plus Bootsy's Rubber Band alumni Frankie "Kash" Waddy and Joel Johnson. As a cosmically deep voiceover laid out the cosmology of funk (or some shit), the band hit hard with "We Want Bootsy," its title subject resplendent in gold lamé. He teased the crowd for about 15 minutes before blessing us with a single note, but that first note made the hairs on the back of your neck stand up.
Bootsy could have mined this supremely hard-hitting, mid-tempo funk groove forever, but he had other ideas. While every P-Funk song of note got its due, the pacing was odd -- grooves would downshift into long rambling speeches over a plodding kick drum, then a ten-minute-plus Blackbyrd solo on "Cosmic Slop" became downright grating. This represented the first of two long stretches in which Bootsy had snuck backstage to get re-costumed; the band could only funk the crowd so hard in the interim.
But Bootsy knew what he was doing. When he returned, he wowed the crowd with a regal electric blue overcoat and a colourful mohawk. And then, sensing the moment, Bootsy launched himself into the crowd, explaining how security "didn't want him to do this." Being a Tuesday night, the audience had thinned out some, but those who remained made their way to the floor to mob their lanky, shiny hero.
After thanking every single person on stage for what seemed like ten minutes without music, the band again defied the powers that be for one final stroke: "P Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up)." Rest assured, that we did.