Christmas Day marked the first anniversary of James Browns passing. As a tribute to The Hardest Working Man in Show Business, former side-man Bootsy Collins organized a celebration of Browns life and music just outside Cincinnati at Covington, KYs the Madison Theater on Saturday. As Brown himself would have wished, the evening began with a red carpet entrance and included short, spirited sets from an eclectic mix of musicians, including Collins, local funk hero Freekbass, Public Enemys Chuck D and prog-guitarist Buckethead, among others. Cincinnati officials also officially proclaimed December 22 ‘James Brown Day—-an honor accepted by Bootsys wife, Patti Collins.
Inside the theater, the stage was set against a large backdrop of a smiling Mr. Brown, which read ‘A Tribute Fit For The King of King Records – Mr. Dynamite, James Brown. Actor/comedian Michael Colyar emceed the event and introduced local favorites like Triage, Djizzle, Zion and iCandi. Freekbass hit the stage at 9 PM and offered a short set, highlighted by a choice version of ‘Cold Sweat that featured a special horn section assembled just for the tribute. Soon after, hip-hop architect Afrika Bambaataa made a surprise appearance, before handing over the stage to Buckethead (who tossed his fans action figures and used James Brown samples as part of his tribute). The evening also included performances by the Bobby Byrd band, Public Enemys Chuck D and Soul Generals. The latter group is actually led by James Browns son Daryl and featured a guest appearance his daughter Venisha.
The show concluded with a powerful performance by the original J.B.s: Collins, guitarist Catfish Collins and drummers Jabo Starks and Clyde Stubblefield. Browns longtime associates each took the stage wearing matching red and black striped suits and brought along Tony Wilson to tackle the Godfather of Souls vocal parts (Venisha Brown also joined the J.B.‘s on stage for a portion of their set). At the end of the night, each of the evenings entertainers took the stage with the J.B.s one final time, before the night climaxed with Chuck Ds version of Soul Power. At the tail end of the evening, Bootsy Collins thanked the crowd for coming out and mentioned he’d like to make this an annual event.