Continuing with our plan to catch great live acts in London, Friday last was Nile Rodgers and Chic live at Indigo (at the O2). Billed as part of the regular Ultimate Boogie party, it skirted with being a nostalgia gig for the Tracey and Sharon from the office “ooh I love Le Freak” crowd. Previous bands to play there included Sister Sledge and Shalamar with Brass Construction, GQ, Change, En Vogue and KC & the Sunshine all up next month. So, yes there were the girls night out crowd mixed with those who, like us were there to experience the legend that is Nile Rodgers.
It wasn’t the original line-up as co-founder Bernard Edwards passed away many years ago and the original session vocalists were just that. And it was always going to be a greatest hits gig given Chic are touring some 30 years after their peak popularity. Normally I’d avoid this kind of gig, but it’s Chic after all. It was 34 years ago that I bought their first album and dropped the needle onto opening track ‘Dance Dance Dance” and I’ve been hooked on their sound ever since. The recent resurgence in disco and bands such as Crazy P borrowing heavily from their early sound has meant I’ve played a lot of Chic recently. They’ve been re-edited, sampled and referenced in so much dance music, it’s hard to ignore the influence of their sound despite maybe not being as familiar with all their work.
So, on to the gig. Check the set list (right) Opening with “Everybody Dance” then “Dance Dance Dance” Nile and the band had the crowd in their hands. The band was two vocalists, 2 keyboardists, Bass, Nile of lead guitar, drums and a 2-man horn section. This was their first gig of the summer and they were tight, hard and funky. A short pause to introduce lead vocalist Kimberley Davis who did “Suki Yaki” (their first big hit in Japan) which lead into, gig highlight, “I Want Your Love”. This iconic dance track rocked it and when the horns came in with that famous riff – this party was on. This is was time to showcase a few of the toons Chic wrote and produced for others – the Sister Sledge hits, Diana’s “Upside Down ” and “I’m Coming Out”. I’d only just turned to Mark and said “I’ll die a happy man if he plays Spacer” when…here it is. An obscure but essential Chic track from a french artist. Top stuff.
Interestingly, when the band played “Like A Virgin” Madonna’s massive 80s hit from Nile, it fell flat and lost the crowd. The opening guitar scratch of Sister Sledges “Thinking of You” lifted the room and the joyous funk and incredible chorus and singalong “.that makes me love you.. I’m living in ecstacy” tour the roof off. The big hits followed leading to the encore of “Good Times“. Undeniable in its influence on modern music and hip hop – check out all the sampling credits in the Wikipedia article – to hear Nile playing this like it was the first time was immense. A blistering bass solo and the Rapper Delight rap took this into a ‘moment’.
So, yes it was greatest hits, it was singalong, it was hook after hook, it was partly an office party crowd. But, it was mostly joyous, soul and funk music played expertly. Nile is clearly still passionate about sharing his gift and delivering an experience which few contemporary soul or RnB artists could touch. It didn’t matter it wasn’t the original line up either, the songs and Nile were the stars in this show.
A 4-CD box set of the remastered Chic Organisation music including rare tracks and releases is due for release on 18 October. Guess I’ll have to have it then.