What: Bootsy Collins
When: 11th July 2011
I pulled into the car park at the O2 and began to curse my luck, things had been looking so good. I’d been cleared to shoot the legendary Bootsy Collins and a photographers’ treat awaited. It was then that the evening started to go wrong. Here was I expecting a quiet time at the O2 as tonight we were at the smaller IndigO2 venue. An intimate affair and downright small compared to its aircraft hanger, Arena brother. What I had forgotten was that Neil Diamond was playing the main venue tonight and the car parks were heaving. As I pulled out all the tricks of a regular concert goer to grab a prime space I got the call that burst my self-satisfied bubble.
My credentials for tonight’s gig had been pulled!
As I sat wondering who I had upset in a former life I pondered turning around and fighting the rush hour traffic on my wasted journey. It was then that I remembered the famous quote, “it’s easier to ask forgiveness than permission”. If Newscorp can blag Gordon Brown’s medical records (allegedly) then surely I could blag my way past security?
As it was, I wan’t the only photographer placed in a similar position so boyed by numbers, we pushed for a meeting with Bootsy’s Management. Expecting a fight we strolled back-stage with our arguments well rehearsed. Not only did we not get a fight we were given unprecedented access to take our photographs and weren’t to be thrown out of the pit after the traditional first three songs.
Having had the hold up we only got in position to take our photographs just as support band Vintage Trouble were concluding. This was a real shame as I had heard good things about the band and having seen them briefly on Later with Jools. Lead singer Ty Taylor reminded me of vintage Sam Cooke, not only in looks but also in the passion of his delivery.
Bootsy Collins hit the stage at the IndigO2 over an hour and a quarter late. Delays on his ferry crossing after the previous day’s North Sea Festival Festival in Rotterdam meant that the band only managed to sound check AFTER Vintage Trouble had already been on. There was a blackout curtain at the front of the stage but it would could never stop the bass sound reverberating through the body.
It was no surprise when that curtain was pulled aside and two giant bass stacks dominated either side of the stage. Bootsy was in town and boy you can’t miss him. Nor would I want to. As former James Brown Bass player and member or Parliament Funkadelic he is Funk, through and through.
Bootsy had an uphill task with the crowd already testy after the long wait. After all it was a Monday night in the Docklands peninsula. He strolled onto the stage and as expected he was resplendent in a sparkling outfit and hat with and his trade-mark star shaped bass. bootsy is renowned for his costumes and we had three major outfits tonight.
From the start you felt the funk and charisma oozing from the stage, Bootsy is a showman and his band are very tight. I think it’s the first time I’ve ever seen multiple bassists and not just two but three! Mind you one of them had so many equipment issues I really feet for him.
Having started late and running up against the venue curfew we unfortunately only got a cut down set but it still left most on a high. Despite Bootsy’s legendary status and influence on other musicians his fan base isn’t that strong as indicated by a less than full venue despite it being years since he’s played here. His fans may not be volumous but they are no less passionate.
On the subject of legends, Bootsy was joined tonight by keyboard player Bernie Worrell who amongst other work spent many years with Talking Heads.
Bootsy has a tradition of venturing into the crowd. Tonight was no exception, he commanded them to part “like Moses and the Red Sea” and then proceeded to move amongst the crowd melting the British reserve with hand slaps and frequent hugs. It was during this interaction that one person decided to grab himself a memento in the shape of Booty’s Bandanna. Bootsy said afterwards that he’s been doing the crowd interaction for twenty years and this is the first time something like that has happened. Frankly I’m surprised but it just goes to show what high regard Bootsy is held in.
With the money clock of the curfew ticking the gig was brought to a premature end with no time for an encore.
Having nearly missed my chance to see Bootsy I for one was happy. Music owes a lot to his funky bass playing and now Bootsy owes his public one after the truncated gig. Let’s hope we are rewarded with a proper return, a weekend gig with no curfew and a chance to fully experience some of the best funk anywhere.
You can catch up on more of Bootsy’s outrageous costumes in the gallery.