He’s the unstoppable force whom even a bout of prostate cancer couldn’t stop, the lord of dance, king of the disco and advocate for the groove armada. Nile Rodgers is back and as relentless as ever. With support from Hacienda legend; DJ Greg Wilson and underground disco mavericks Crazy P, the evening began in high spirits as aspirations for a funk and soul triumph engulfed the sun-soaked, sold-out Castlefield Bowl Arena in Manchester. As part of the week-long annual Sounds Of The City 2018, Nile Rodgers and Chic were the opening act of the festival followed by the likes of Shed Seven, Hacienda Classical, Paul Heaton and more valiant members of music nobility. As far as openers go, it truly doesn’t get better than this as the 65-year-old takes stage looking ever the part, dressed in his time-honoured classic white hat with the lyrics as his bursts of colour through by way of creative positivity.
Spearheaded by the man himself, the current Chic live show seems like an extension of Rodgers personality: a two-hour cascade of influential disco, flawlessly delivered with a medley of their greatest hits from ‘Good Times’ to ‘My Forbidden Lover’. Accompanied by vocalists Kimberly Davis and Fomali, the band launch into ‘Everybody Dance’ followed by Chic hit ‘I Want Your Love’, with each member of the Sounds Of The City audience as their backing singer ensemble.
It’s not just an avalanche of Chic’s monster hits: the eight-piece band can convincingly recreate anything touched by the hand of Rodgers, from Madonna’s ‘Like A Virgin’ to Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’. Nile speaks of his ongoing battle with cancer and of being given his second all-clear after a growth was found in 2017. Now free again, the godfather of funk looks every inch the man you expect to represent such soulful songs – and it seems he’s got more in him yet. Earlier this month Chic announced their ninth studio album and first one in twenty six years: ‘It’s About Time’ which has been introduced with the precursor ‘I’ll Be There’ featuring a video with today’s all-American girl Karlie Kloss. Chic’s first single for 23 years is inspired by lost tapes from their heyday. Live, it slots in seamlessly, not least because it recycles a snippet of ‘Everybody Dance’. The sampling of their own track is a humble this-song-is-ours from the behemoths of disco who have influenced generation upon generation to lose yourself to dance.
Finishing with ‘Good Times’, some lucky members of the audience were fully immersed in the Chic experience as they were invited on to the stage with the band themselves, including Happy Monday’s singer Rowetta amongst others (a true amalgamation of music genres). Manchester is known for it’s musical mastery and admiration for souls that empower through song, showcased by Rodgers being brought to our shores and presented this evening by local promoters SJM and the team at Warehouse Project. The evening brought magic and soul to our city and left each audience member in awe of Nile and his tireless troops of disco.