North Sea Jazz Festival 2008, Day 1-3
Another father figure of funk, bassist Bootsy Collins, was due to finish the night in the Nile arenaa vast standing space with tiered seating at the sides. The gig was an extremely bizarre experience for several reasons. First of all, before Collins even got on stage, the audience was treated to lengthy semantics from a series of sideshow acts which hadn't been listed on the festival itinerary. A dancing three-piece singing skewed mashups of James Brown tunes was followed by an indiscernible rapper and a relatively decent instrumental funk group. It emerged that the whole event was conceived as a tribute to the Godfather of Soul himselfa credible notion in principle. However, a woefully dire performance from a lady named Vicki Anderson (apparently a former JB backing singer), whose voice sounded like fingernails scraping down a chalkboard, pushed patience to its limit. Collins had still not materialised, and there was a feeling that only his appearance could restore a semblance of dignity to proceedings.
It didn't. Collins finally came out but, rather than stepping forward to lead a storming set of original material, stood back as an impostor James Brown took the spotlight. Indeed, someone pretending to be the deceased King of Funk. He wasn't a bad singer, but anyone trying to imitate Brown's towering talent and unique stage presence is bound to fail. And, as if it couldn't have got any weirder, Brown's controversial widow, Tomi Rae Hynie, was next on stage to deliver a couple more horribly out-of-tune covers. It was time to leave.
Admirable as it is to honour James Brown the musical legend, questions must be raised about the way it was attempted. The whole spectacle was, quite frankly, a crass parody. It seemed like a bad dream. As a man who was famed for high standards and relentless pursuit of musical perfection, Brown must be turning in his grave. It looked like a cheap shot on the part of former colleagues to make as much money as possible from his legacy. But, even so, why did it have to be done in such a tactless, unethical manner? Perhaps the most disturbing, lamentable fact is that Collins and trombonist Fred Wesley, who also performed, have compromised their own values and integrity in associating with such a terrible production. It really was an insult to the memory of the great JB: he deserves better.
Day 2Saturday, July 12