After asking just how many hits can you fit into one show, Getintothis’ Shaun Ponsonby checks out The Hitmaker himself in Manchester to find out.
By now, explaining who Nile Rodgers is feels a bit moot. In the last two years he has gone from well-known producer to bona fide, omnipresent star. He has had the kind of latter day resurgence that most artists in his position could only dream of, and he’s celebrating his newfound success with the first Chic album in over twenty years.
The latter point is what this tour is all about. It began in London on the day new single I’ll Be There was released, and it actually gets a number of airings tonight, both live and pre-recorded. As the DJ who opened the show packed away his equipment (kudos on spinning Prince’s Controversy, by the way!), Mr Rodgers takes to the stage, basking in the love of the crowd, and introduces the new song’s video, which is played on a large screen placed at the back of the stage. Hearing it this way is arguably as intended, and it does the song more justice than the iTunes download, that’s for sure.
Directly afterwards, Nile returns to the stage with his current incarnation of Chic, and they don’t let up once. Opening with a trio of Chic hits – Everybody Dance, Dance Dance Dance (Yowzah Yowzah Yowzah) and I Want Your Love – was obviously only going to be the tip of the iceberg for a man whose guitar is boldly called The Hitmaker. But boy can he back that up!
Just as we had caught our breath from that assault, they were giving us hits that the Chic organisation had written and produced for Diana Ross (Upside Down, I’m Coming Out), Madonna (Like a Virgin), Sister Sledge (We Are Family, He’s The Greatest Dancer, Lost In Music), Duran Duran (Notorious), David Bowie (Let’s Dance) and, of course, Get Lucky 2013’s monster hit for Daft Punk that ushered in this new lease of life.
Then there’s the interpolations into famous Chic samples, such as Modjo’s Lady (Hear Me Tonight), and the Sugarhill Gang’s Rapper’s Delight.
As they launched into their final two-pronged attack with Le Freak and Good Times, you have to wonder; how many hits can you squeeze into one show?
On our way to Manchester, we read a review of one of the London show’s in the Evening Standard. The writer bemoaned how Chic’s back catalogue is based on a few great singles rather than a few great albums, that because of this the audience is merely experiencing fake nostalgia and the Bowie and Madonna covers were just good karaoke. In doing so, he successfully missed the point.
A huge percentage of the audience at the Apollo were kids who probably discovered Chic via Daft Punk. How can they be experiencing nostalgia for something they have just discovered? And the “covers” (if you can call them that) were far from karaoke. Never once did it feel like any member of the band were going through the motions.
Rodgers is clearly loving every minute of his renaissance, and this is a celebration of his life’s work, of which he is justifiably proud. He stayed on stage as the vast majority of the crowd stayed to groove to the new single one more time. Few people deserve the belated public recognition more than he. Long may it continue.