War and George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic

Famed Funkmasters at the Santa Barbara Bowl

Paul Wellman

It’s hard to imagine a better match for the opening holiday weekend of the summer season than this one. George Clinton and his shambolic funk tribe took the stage first, mixing some of their most famous jams — “(Not Just) Knee Deep,” “Flashlight,” and “Atomic Dog,” to name a few — with thrashing guitar excursions that bordered on grindcore. George Clinton wore a long white plastic raincoat, its many pockets stuffed with sheets of paper. One never knows exactly what Clinton is up to, but this clinical touch may have had something to do with the recent release of Medicaid Fraud Dogg, the first Parliament record in 38 years (!). The album’s single, “I’m Gon Make You Sick o’Me[CQ],” could hardly be further from the truth of Clinton’s live presence. Not even the most Raiders-loving devotees of War wanted to see him go, and as a result we were treated to a generous set that included plenty of onstage audience dancing and more than one journey to the edge of chaos.

In the set that followed, a lithe and energetic Lonnie Jordan rallied the crowd with extended versions of all the group’s hits. “Slippin’ into Darkness” and “Spill the Wine” brought out the boogie in faithful fans by the thousands, but the musical highlight was “Low Rider,” for which the group was augmented by accordion and brass in true norteño style. Beneath the tough exterior, War showed a sweet side, proclaiming to all that “summertime is here.”