By Molly McCowan
The Boulder Theatre is one of the most unique venues along the Front Range. Emblazoned with a huge marquee and located right next to Pearl Street, it combines an old-school feel with a new-world attitude. The theatre has been pulling a lot of big acts to the city in the last months, including Danzig, Sheryl Crow, Iron & Wine, and, most recently, the king of funk himself, Bootsy Collins.
Bootsy (also known as Bootzilla, Casper the Funky Ghost, etc.) got his start as the bassist for James Brown. In fact, some of Brown’s most legendary songs (“Super Bad,” “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine”) were recorded with Bootsy on the bass.
Bootsy moved on to becoming a mainstay in Parliament-Funkadelic during the ‘70s, started doing his own funky ‘thang’ and the rest is history. He has even collaborated with Buckethead, the virtuoso guitarist, and Brain, the former drummer for Primus.
The show at the Boulder Theatre took place on a gorgeous, clear night. Even though the venue was packed by 8:30, the show didn’t start until almost an hour later. No matter, however, because the intro to the show set the funky tone for the evening on a large scale. While Bootsy’s wingman introduced everyone onstage, Bootsy arrived, dressed in head-to-toe silver sequins, with his back to the audience. When he spun around and started slappin’ his trademark star-shaped bass, the funk officially arrived.
Even though Bootsy is the star of the show, his band packs a serious punch as well. Bernie Worrell on keys (a funk legend in his own right), former members of P-Funk and many other famous funk and soul musicians gave the show a tight, well-rehearsed feel. The horns were as staccato as could be, the singers were right in tune and everyone in the audience was shaking their groove-thangs.
Bootsy is the master of getting an audience involved. He whispers sweet nothings, grins from ear-to-ear and isn’t afraid to slow things down and get dirty. Some memorable quotes from the evening:
“I’m gettin’ ready to get nasty on y’all, but first I need some virtual foreplay.”
“Touch each other. Touch the person next to you right now. Spread the funkin’ love, baby!”
“Purple Haze,” “Flashlight” and “I’d Rather Be With You” were some highlights of the cover songs performed, and they were all given a funk twist not soon to be forgotten. The band also performed songs from Bootsy’s new album, The Covenant of Funk.
Throughout the performance (and three elaborate costume changes), Bootsy reiterated the fact that music can’t lose the human connection. Bootsy even came out into the audience and jammed with the crowd, hugging and shaking hands with everyone.
It was Bootsy’s heartfelt desire for connection that made this show something special. In a world of static performers hitting buttons onstage and barely speaking a word to the audience, Bootsy and his funky crew are determined to put the heart and soul back into live performance.
Bootsy trusts his audience to take care of him, and his willingness to reach out and connect with the funky humans he shares the planet with is something that needs to come back to the live music scene. Because in the end, musicians are just people too.
Bootsy’s closing words said it all.
“When they say you can’t, the funk says you can. Stay funky, my babies.”
Molly McCowan is a music writer and editor for Scene Magazine who plays funk bass and has recently taken to buying clothing with animal prints and sequins on it. Only for wearing onstage, of course.