Cameo & Bootsy Collins 6.24.12
Words By Ben Solis
Photos By Greg Molitor (ReMIND Photography)
When ’80s funk masterminds Cameo come to Detroit, patrons know that they’ll get more than just a set of great music. They’ll get a venerable party-starting powder keg of a performance, complete with eccentric costumes to seal the deal. Add Bootsy Collins to the mix, the man who made funk music more than just a sound but a cultural phenomenon, and you’ll have one hell of a show on your hands. Slated as the Motor City’s “Funkapalooza,” Collins and Larry Blackmon’s brainchild brought back the spirit of heavy, freaky funk to Chene Park last Sunday, taking the couple thousand fans that had the good sense to attend on a fantastic voyage of galactic groove. Undeniably, this is was the best engagement that the small amphitheater had scheduled for this summer.
Cameo is hailed as being one of the most innovative and popular groups of the late 1980s, with their early material from the ’70s still as crucially important to the genre as George Clinton’s seminal groups Parliament and Funkadelic. I had assumed from my last Chene Park venture that Cameo would ultimately receive a stark stymie in regards to their time slot and ability to jam out the essential songs that made them icons. To do that, the group had to be able to play the material that went beyond just their Top 40 hits – the stuff that really allows them to show off their chops. I was afraid that yet again I would be subjected to songs like “Candy” and “Word Up” without being transported any further past the ’80s. Don’t get me wrong, as popular and chart-oriented as those two tracks are, they make for fine live dance tracks. However, I wanted the slimy stuff that seeped tight pockets and neck-breaking fours on the floor.
Fans like me were not disappointed, with the group throwing down some of the more obscure tracks from their catalog, like the robotic sleaze of “Flirt,” “Back and Forth,” “Cameosis” and a whole host of other hip dancers. The group, celebrating 33 years as a unit, was on absolute fire and the crowd thanked them with gleeful cheers. As the dusk descended on the Detroit River, it was now time for Collins to bring the fluorescent sophistifunk to the forefront, and he did so with the grace and candor of an international ambassador of jam.
Bashing the audience over the head with ostentatious costumes and outlandishly nasty trenches of rhythm, Collins easily stole the show away from Cameo. Aside from banging out extended versions of fan favorites like “Flashlight,” “Play With Bootsy,” and “Hollywood Squares,” Collins’ 10-piece band cooked on high-heat in between interludes when their eccentric band leader stepped off stage to change costumes. It was a great mix of classic tracks and free-jazz aesthetic, and the true heads showed off their appreciation by blazing blunts at every twist and turn (no pun intended). One of the great things about giving the band that kind of room to breathe was catching them kick out medleys inside jams. Out of nowhere it seems, the band began paying homage to founding fathers Sly and The Family Stone with a mix of “Stand,” “Higher” and “Everyday People.” On top of that, long-time Bootsy keyboardist Joel “Razor Sharp” Johnson joined him on stage for the entire performance, bringing up patches of synth to rival contemporary and friend Bernie Worrell.
It couldn’t have gotten better, and somehow, Collins found a way to up the ante on his own set by starting to proclaim his need to “reach out and touch somebody. “I want to go out into the crowd and touch the people,” said Collins to a rush of screaming fans. “I told my security that I wanted to go out and touch the people, and they said ‘You can’t do that, Bootsy. Those audiences in Detroit are craaaaaazzy.’ I told them, ‘Detroit is my security, baby.”’ Upon that one sentence, the crowd absolutely lost their minds. Taking off his sequined robes, Collins exposed his love for the city by wearing a Nickolas Lidstrom Red Wings tee-shirt while making his way into the sea of bodies. Not only did they begin to play an absurd version of “We Want The Funk,” they accented the jam with a chorus line saying “BOOT-SY TOUCH THE PEO-PLE!”
Clearly, Collins respects the city like a long-lost friend. Whether it was the enthusiasm brought forth on that night or just the rich musical history Detroit has to offer, his love was conveyed, and we were all truly touched. I’ve seen a few shows already this summer and was amazed by quite a few of them, but this was one for the record books.
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