Gig review: Chic featuring Nile Rodgers at O2 Academy Leeds

Nile Rodgers of CHICNile Rodgers of CHIC
Nile Rodgers of CHIC
Nineteen years since the band was disbanded following the death of bassist Bernard Edwards, Chic have a new single out. Nile Rodgers isn’t about to let us forget that.

Sporting his trademark white beret and looking younger than his 62 years (remarkable considering that Rodgers has spent the last few years battling aggressive cancer), the legendary guitarist, songwriter and producer appears on stage before the show kicks off to inform us about the availability of the new track. Then the unabashedly retro video is screened.

Rodgers’ charm is so disarming that such a blatant marketing ploy doesn’t stick in the throat.

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In lesser hands, Rodgers’ unhesitating expectation that we’ll sing along when I’ll Be There – a timeless slice of Chic disco-funk, as it happens – eventually pops up on the setlist would seem overly confident. By now, Rodgers’s unrivalled track record as a hitmaker – rejuvenated after some leaner years with his involvement in Daft Punk’s Get Lucky, also aired tonight – makes it natural that he not only hopes but also expects that the crowd will eat out of his hand.

His prediction turns out to be one hundred percent accurate. Pitched as a musical life’s journey, tonight’s triumphant two-hour set is a non-stop hit parade, from Rodgers’ chart-topping collaborations with A-listers (Let’s Dance, Upside Down, Like A Virgin) to classics – Le Freak, Everybody Dance – that turned Chic into the predominant force in late-70s disco-funk. The medley of Soup For One and Eurodance one-hit wonder Modjo’s Lady – which relies heavily on the groove of the 1982 soundtrack cut – proves that even Chic’s rare misses have the potential to provide the foundation for other people’s smashes.

However, tonight’s resounding success isn’t about what is played; it’s how the material is delivered that quickly transforms the reaction of the capacity crowd from enthusiastic to borderline berserk, turning a subdued Sunday night into a jubilant party. The eight-piece band are well-oiled but there’s not a hint of by-numbers slickness as they propel classics like I Want Your Love – an early highlight – into ever more muscular displays of unstoppable dancefloor momentum-building. Such is the band’s prowess that even Notorious, Rodgers’s co-write with generally groove-averse 80’s yuppie-popsters Duran Duran, is rendered irresistibly funky.

I’ll Be There’s video gets another airing at end of the night, once the extended jam on Good Times (accompanied by an on-stage dance-off starring a group of beaming fans) has finally, reluctantly ground to a halt. By this stage, such overexposure has little to do with ramming a new product down our throats. The curfew has passed but, visibly moved by the crowd’s reaction, Rodgers is unwilling to let a perfect night of music end. In the end, it’s his obvious enthusiasm for music and entertaining even more than the hits that make the reactivated Chic such a big hit.

Gig date: March 22