Thursday June 21st, 2012 – Chicago, IL
After being a fan for thirty five years, I finally got to see William ‘Bootsy’ Collins perform live at the Cubby Bear in Chicago tonight – and he was sure worth the wait. WOW, what a showman! I would wait another thirty five years to watch someone who can captivate an audience like that.
Bootsy is a bass player who used to play with James Brown before moving on to be part of the Parliament/Funkadelic heyday with George Clinton. He, George and Bernie Worrell made up the creative core trio of P-Funk and I’d always heard he was great but hadn’t been touring for years.
He was a huge part of George’s heyday, but also had his own ‘Bootsy’s Rubber Band’ – which is still one of the coolest band names I’ve ever heard. I’ve always loved his music, but even more his flamboyant style which includes a star shaped ‘space bass’ and sunglasses shaped like stars.
It’s a little bit pro wrestling, a little bit of funky Liberace, and a whole lot of pure showmanship rolled up into one entertaining powerhouse package. Bootsy had a pair of outstanding mentors to learn from in James Brown and George Clinton, but he molded all of it to fit his own personality.
I was completely blown away by what a magnetic stage presence he had. From the first second he stepped on stage, he was the focal point. I’ve seen George do that countless times, and have to believe James was the same way. There’s a dynamic energy there that’s impossible to ignore. It’s what makes a star a star, and Bootsy Collins is a bright one. I can’t believe he’s not a bigger one.
Just like George, Bootsy is not an oldies act. Yes, both of their peak years of popularity were in the ‘70s, but they’re not phoning it in. They know how to bring the funk and entertain anyone of any age, yet hoards of unwashed imbeciles pack stadiums to see non talents who don’t even play their own instruments. Shouldn’t talent prevail? I would hope so, but this planet doesn’t get that.
Bootsy earned every nickel he made tonight. With the three costume changes alone he captured my full respect, but then he took it over the top when he went out into the crowd in the middle of a song and shook hands with everyone in sight. First, he took off his glitter robe to reveal a Bears jersey and the crowd went crazy. Was it cheap? Maybe, but so what? It was great showmanship.
Isn’t that what entertainment is about? Another thing I loved was his star shaped bass that lit up around the edges when the lights went out. The whole show was visual, and I thought it was on a par with any live show I’ve ever seen. Those who were there knew it too, as they started chanting ‘Boot-sy! Boot-sy!’ several times throughout the show. It was a big time show in a small venue.
What made it even better was that I got to attend the show with Pedro Bell, the artist who drew the Funkadelic album covers of the ‘70s and George Clinton covers of the ‘80s. He did the art for my ‘Hard Luck Jollies’ CD, and was the one who told me Bootsy was coming to town. Getting a chance to hang out with him was a thrill, and he’s an amazing creative talent even to this day. I’d met him in person before, but this was the first time we got to hang out for any extended period.
I’ve been such a huge fan of his work for so long, I felt star struck when he called to inform me of the show. We met at a George Clinton show a couple of years ago, and James Wesley Jackson was with us. James lives on the far south side of Chicago where Pedro does, so they drove in the same car. I asked if James was coming tonight, and Pedro said no and asked if I might drive him.
What am I going to say, no? I couldn’t do that. I don’t care how far of a drive I had, how many times does anyone get a chance to spend time with a legendary figure of any kind? Pedro Bell is an iconic artist of immense talent, and his unique style has become part of the P-Funk package.
If you’ve never seen his work, look up some of his cover art and admire the intricate detail and colorful presentation of a Funkadelic ‘One Nation Under A Groove’ or ‘Uncle Jam Wants You’, or George Clinton’s ‘Computer Games’ or ‘You Shouldn’t Nuf Bit Fish’. You’ll notice his style.
I hired Pedro to do my next CD cover, which is already completed. I’m not even sure how long CDs will remain a factor, but I wanted the artwork so I paid for it. It’s titled ‘Comedy Skeletons In The Closet’, a tribute to George Clinton’s ‘R&B Skeletons In The Closet’ from 1986. It’s very well done, as was ‘Hard Luck Jollies’. If nothing else, I invested in myself and I don’t regret it.
What I do feel rotten about is that such a prolific and talented artist like Pedro is not celebrated as the trendsetter he is. Funk fans have admired his work for decades, and I’m one of them. One would think a person like that would be rich beyond his wildest dreams, but life rarely works like that. Pedro has had some health issues in recent years, and like most of us works hard to survive.
When I picked him up, he walked a bit gingerly to the car and I wondered if he was ok. He was reserved at first, but eventually opened up and enthralled me with some fascinating stories about all kinds of things from his history with the P-Funk to his art work to his physical health issues.
I found him to be a riveting storyteller with a lot of warmth and humor. He’s still on top of his creative game, and told me of several projects he still intends to do in his life. It was inspiring to hear him speak of what he still intends to accomplish, even though his health has held him back.
I was a big fan of his before, but tonight I think we became friends. His business manager and I had been in contact via email when I hired him to do my cover projects, and she also came out to the show this evening with another friend of hers who is a flautist. Her name is Aki Antonia, and she’s a very sharp lady who was a pleasure to deal with throughout all of our business dealings.
All of us went out for a meal after the concert, and really had an outstanding time talking about the funk, comedy, show business and life in general. It’s always better with great people, and this was an evening I won’t soon forget. Seeing Bootsy Collins live and hanging out with Pedro Bell all in one night is about as good as it gets in my world. I don’t care if anyone else likes it – I did.
The longer I’m alive, the less I understand the way this crackpot planet is wired. Artistic giants like Pedro Bell or Bootsy Collins aren’t revered by the masses, but some sleazy slut like Snooky or Snooty or whatever that babbling bimbo’s name is rakes in millions being a skank. It stinks.