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Review - Chic feat. Nile Rodgers at the Roundhouse

Concert date: 20th March 2015

If you came here expecting something other than a nauseatingly sycophantic eulogy to the musical genius of Nile Rodgers - then you might be advised to stop reading now. Because otherwise I make no excuse for the Grade A tush-tasting that is about to ensue.

I’ve always been a Chic fan, from long before I saw them live at the Roundhouse in Camden last night. But even when you’re familiar with their entire back catalogue it still never ceases to amaze just how many hits Nile Rodgers, along with his now departed partner in crime Bernard Edwards, has been responsible for.

After a heartfelt speech from Rodgers explaining how his cancer diagnosis four years ago persuaded him to make more music than ever before, the group embarked on a non-stop parade of history’s greatest floor-fillers. They opened with the hit that introduced the concept of Chic to the world, Everybody Dance, followed by two of their more under-rated tracks Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah) and I Want Your Love, with the latter featuring a particularly spectacular guitar and bass combo from Rodgers and the man who nowadays fills Bernard Edwards’ shoes - Jerry Barnes.

Nile Rodgers and Chic

Then came the time for hits written or produced by Rodgers and Edwards for some of the worlds biggest artists. I’m Coming Out and Upside Down as made famous by Diana Ross, Lady (Hear Me Tonight) by Modjo - a song whose bass line is ripped straight from Chic’s Soup For One, then a triple-whammy of hits from the Rodgers and Edwards produced Sister Sledge, He’s The Greatest Dancer, We Are Family and Lost In Music, followed by Madonna’s Like A Virgin and Duran Duran’s Notorious.

A personal favourite was a less celebrated Sister Sledge track Thinking Of You, whose inclusion marked the start of a series of tracks that Rodgers himself admitted the band hadn’t played live since they were first recorded. Chic’s Happy Man (an appropriate song on the International Day of Happiness) was followed by My Forbidden Lover and the Carly Simon track Why.

A big feature of the evening was the debut live performance of Chic’s first new single for 23 years - I’ll Be There. Peppered with more references to Rodgers’ career than you can shake a disco stick at, we were treated not only to the performance itself, but a background projection of the video, featuring the floor-fidgeting aerobics of Kandy Kloss (watch the video below). The track itself underlines the fact that Rodgers has not lost his reputation as ‘the hit-maker’. Having only been released that day, he duly informed us that it was already in the Top 20 and with radio airplay on the UK’s biggest stations all but guaranteed, there’s every chance it will break the Top 10.

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By this point you’ve probably realised that this is less of a review, more a song by song recollection of the evening. But then again, that’s almost the point. Anyone who can claim artistic credit for such a production line of disco classics is frankly beyond the point of creative critique. And just as you were thinking they’d exhausted their set-list of anthems, the best was still to come.

Perhaps the single record that has defined the rebirth of Nile Rodgers more than any other is the smash-hit of 2013 Get Lucky, which he co-wrote and played on with Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams. At the time of Chic’s acclaimed Glastonbury set of that year, Rodgers was still reluctant to perform it live until he had done so with the robots from France. But having now accomplished that feat, its arguably the highlight of the contemporary Chic setlist. The vocals of Kimberley Davis helped “Chic-ify it” as Rodgers quipped, and on a night when every song was a crowd-pleaser, this brought the levels of collective euphoria to new highs.

Then onto another huge hit, and one that makes you double-check again the sheer extent of Rodgers’ collaborative influence. It was the only time the frankly understandably middle-aged audience began to resemble less of a collection of doddery Dad-dancers and more the clientele of an early 90s acid rave. The cause? David Bowie’s Rodgers-produced Let’s Dance.

And to finish the show - two tracks that helped define the Chic sound like no others. Le Freak and Good Times, the latter of which featured a neat segway into its hip-hop defining off-spring Rapper’s Delight. For the finale, a swathe of lucky gig-goers were allowed on stage to help add to the sense that we were all back, for one night at least, on the dance-floor of Studio 54.

At the end of the show, Rodgers payed tribute to his late musical partner Bernard Edwards, who he claimed was the man who turned him from a “jazz snob” into the world’s greatest purveyor of funky floor-fillers. Its a huge shame that Edwards is no longer around to witness the overdue adulation being poured on the other founding member of the Chic Organisation. But his legacy lives on - on the way out of the gig I noticed they were selling limited edition vinyl copies of I’ll Be There. I duly parted with my cash and soon noticed the accreditation on the record - “written and produced by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers”. There is no greater reminder of the immortality of their music.

Verdict: 5 Stars