Nile Rodgers and CHIC @ Arena Birmingham, 16 December 2018

Nile Rodgers and CHIC @ Arena Birmingham, 16 December 2018

Having sold more than 500 million records in his time, there are few musicians on the planet to have achieved quite as much as funk and soul superstar Nile Rodgers.

From David Bowie to Madonna and Diana Ross to Lady Gaga, he has worked with some of the greatest artists of all time to churn out hit-after-hit during his 40 year career. 

Joined by his Chic colleagues of course, the 66-year-old was at the Birmingham Arena on a cold December evening this week as part of a five-date tour across the UK.

Although the visit had arrived on the back of the group’s first album in a remarkable 26 years, they chose not to perform a single song from it to save space in the set list for their biggest hits.

Showcasing the new album It’s About Time was left to BBC Radio 1 DJ and presenter MistaJam who got the crowd firmly on their feet before the headliners took to the stage. 

He helped keep fans entertained between Irish-born singer-songwriter and Chic collaborator, Cosha, as well as electro-dance duo, Franc Moody, who were both welcome openers to the evening’s affairs.

As 9pm approached, it was time for the crowd to be in the presence of the true king of disco – as a lonesome Rodgers arrived to stand centre-stage. “Are you feeling funky?” he bellowed, before the huge curtain behind him fell to the floor to reveal ‘The Chic Organisation’ in all its glory. 

They kicked off with Everybody Dance and I Want Your Love before Rodgers took a moment to declare his connection to the Second City and its people. “There is so much love I have for this town, because of my brothers Duran Duran. I am one of your native sons – I hope you feel the same way about me,” he said, before modestly introducing a melody of some of the number one hits he’d worked on with other artists.

The mammoth vocals of the formidable Kimberly Davis and Folami were loud and soulful, as they belted out Diana Ross classics I’m Coming Out and Upside Down, followed by Sister Sledge’s He’s The Greatest Dancer and We Are Family. 

Madonna’s Like A Virgin went down a treat with fans before returning to Sister Sledge’s Lost in Music and Thinking Of You, which was accompanied by a backdrop featuring pictures of those he’d collaborated with since the beginning. 

Rodgers might be approaching 70 but his ability to write songs in the 21st Century is no less than it was when he first started making music in the ‘70s.   Just five years ago he worked with French dance outfit Daft Punk and US artist Pharrell to create global phenomenon Get Lucky – his second most successful song ever. 

But before diving into the fan favourite, Rodgers’ went on an emotional outpour about his battle with “aggressive cancer”, which was diagnosed just three years before the single’s release.  “After my diagnosis I decided I was going to write more songs than in my entire life, do more live shows than in my entire life and do more collaborations than in my entire life,” he said. “As I stand here in Birmingham tonight I can you tell you that I am cancer free… talk about getting lucky.” 

Chic Cheer and My Forbidden Lover were next followed by a stunning rendition of David Bowie’s 1983 single Let’s Dance.

There was no encore as the eight-piece ended a killer 18-song set with their most successful hit Le Freak, before fans then invaded the stage for a final dosing of disco fever with feel-good classic Good Times.

The legendary outfit’s outstanding talent had fans on their feet from the get-go and it was nothing short of a privilege to stand in their presence – one of the best performances of 2018 for sure. 

Reviewer: Tom Oakley

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