LIVE: Bootsy Collins / Shaggy @ the Empire State Plaza, 6/18/14

Review by Greg Haymes
Video by Timothy Reidy

With The Egg as a backdrop, it certainly looked as though the Mothership had indeed landed on the Empire State Plaza last Wednesday evening, as the electrifying starchild o’ funk Bootsy Collins and his crew led the crowd through classic Parliament-Funkadelic chants, from the opening “We love the funk, gotta have the funk” to the closing “It’s official, family approved, one nation under a groove.”

Space-bass master Bootsy was bedecked in his raspberry-colored, sequined suit and matching top hat – the first of four different outfits that he sported throughout the evening – while the rest of the bandmembers – just about a dozen of them – maintained the “space travelin'” theme wearing blue, NASA technician jumpsuits and knee-high white boots.

Bootsy, of course, paid homage to his former bandleader, the supreme funkmeister George Clinton, numerous times throughout the night, hitting it especially hard with Funkadelic’s “Swing Down, Sweet Chariot” and a rip-snorting rendition of Parliament’s “Flashlight.”

As in the memorable Alive at Five concerts by Bootsy (2012) and George Clinton (2013), it was all about the groove, as the band slipped bits and pieces of various songs over the top of the slippery backbeat. Musical shout-outs ranged from Buddy Miles’ “Them Changes” to “Old McDonald Had a Farm”; from the Rolling Stones’ “Miss You” to square dance fave “Buffalo Gals”; from Allen Toussaint’s “Yes We Can Can” to the theme from “Casper the Friendly Ghost.”

“Body Slam” certainly rocked the house, but Collins really hit the money-shot with the epic slow jam “I’d Rather Be With You,” which slid into Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You” and featured a monster, fuzzed-out, wah-wah-fueled bass solo by Bootsy.

A mighty, mighty display of interplanetary funk-da-tude…

DJ Nate da Great got the large – and rapidly growing larger – crowd warmed-up, and by the time Shaggy took the stage the party was in full swing. Backed by a six-piece band and a posse of backing vocalists, the Jamaican-born reggae hitmaker and Grammy Award-winner teased the crowd with snippets of contamporary hits – Alicia Keys’ “Empire State of Mind” and Pharrell’s “Happy” – but leaned heavily toward the golden oldies end of the musical spectrum to build the foundations for many of his reggae-pop hybrid songs. Hits by the likes of Mungo Jerry, Marvin Gaye and the Everly Brothers popped into Shaggy’s songbag, and “Angel” featured a clever mash-up of Merrilee Rush’s 1968 hit “Angel of the Morning” with Steve Miller’s ’73 hit “The Joker.”

But Shaggy’s best music of the night, however, came from his latest Sly-and-Robbie-produced album, Out of Many, One Music, including “You Girl” and the ska-inflected “If U Slip U Slide.”

The Capital Concert series concludes today with blues-rockers George Thorogood & the Destroyers. The concert will take place indoors inside the Empire State Plaza’s Convention Hall, due to the impending weather. The concert kicks off at 5pm with Local 518 faves Scotty Mac & the Rockin’ Bonnevilles, followed by Fifth On the Floor before Thorogood rocks the house. Admission is free.

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