Review: Greg Phillips Photos: Rick Clifford https://www.rcstills.com/
The backstage announcer beckons six time Grammy winner Nile Rodgers and Chic to the Melbourne Forum stage. Niles noodles some notes on his legendary Stratocaster in preparation for their opening tune and then thinks otherwise, deciding instead to address the packed house first. “I’ve got to say, this tour has been shockingly good! We’ve been here before but this time there’s something magical happening … I just want to thank you in advance and we want you to party with us and have a real good time.” And party we do for the next ninety minutes as the Forum transforms into the love child of early 80s nightclubs, Chasers and the The Melbourne Underground.
It takes a certain kind of moxie to open a show with your band’s biggest hit but that exactly what Nile Rodgers and Chic do when they spring ‘Le Freak’ on the unsuspecting but ecstatic crowd. The trick of course is that you’ve got to possess the goods to back it up and for Nile Rodgers, that’s not an issue. As the night’s set list proves, he’s had a hand in an incredible number of global chart toppers. ‘Everybody Dance’ follows and of course just as the label reads, we dance and clap our hands. Next up ‘Dance, Dance, Dance’ and ‘I Want Your Love’ and it seems Niles is intent on hitting us with Chic’s greatest hits album in track order and in doing so creates an infectious dance frenzy. Everyone in the house is dancing including the bar staff and there are some impressive moves from those in line for drinks too.
Two Diana Ross classics ‘I’m Coming Out’ and ‘Upside Down’ signal the start of our musical education of Nile Rodgers’ celebrated career. Sister Sledge’s ‘He’s the Greatest Dancer’ and ‘We Are Family’ spotlight the man’s importance to the disco music era and also presents amazing vocalists Kimberly Davis and Audrey Martells with their own time to shine. The music history lesson continues with cover songs from Madonna (Like a Virgin), Bowie (Modern Love) and Beyonce (Cuff It), all songs Nile has been involved in funking up. Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’ and ‘Lose Yourself to Dance’ follow and you realise that this godfather of groove has infiltrated our musical lives decade after decade. The Grammy Academy recognised this fact earlier in the year when they awarded Rodgers with a Lifetime Achievement Award.
More Chic originals keep the energy levels high, there’s no downtime whatsoever tonight. Time for another name drop as the band launch into Duran Duran’s ’Notorious’. I’m surprised Nile didn’t slot in an INXS track too, as he worked closely with the band in 1993 on ‘Original Sin’.
The horn section, consisting of trumpet player Steve Jankowski and saxophonist Brandon Wright, along with keyboard players Russell Graham and Richard Hilton create such a phat sound for ‘Spacer’, a hit by French artist Sheila & B. Devotion. All the while drummer Ralph Rolle and charismatic bass player Jerry Barnes keep the rhythm engine motoring along.
At the pointy end of the show Ralph Rolle is handed MC duties and encourages the crowd to break their mythical noise level meter. We pass with flying colours as the band funk their way into a euphoric version of Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’. An extended medley of ‘Good Times’ and ‘Rapper’s Delight’ showcase this incredible band and completes a night that nobody wants to end. Has a Forum Theatre crowd ever experienced a more exhilarating show than this? I doubt it. Nile Rodgers is the master groove maker, a world class musician, songwriter, producer and as we discovered tonight, spreader of joy.
Le Freak (Chic)
Everybody Dance (Chic)
Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah) (Chic)
I Want Your Love (Chic)
I’m Coming Out / Upside Down (Diana Ross cover)
He’s the Greatest Dancer / We Are Family (Sister Sledge cover)
Like a Virgin / Material Girl (Madonna cover)
Modern Love (David Bowie cover)
CUFF IT (Beyoncé cover)
Get Lucky (Daft Punk cover)
Lose Yourself to Dance (Daft Punk cover)
Spacer (Sheila & B. Devotion cover)
Soup for One / Lady (Hear Me Tonight) (Chic)
Lost in Music (Sister Sledge cover)
Notorious (Duran Duran cover)
Thinking of You (Sister Sledge cover)
My Feet Keep Dancing (Chic)
Chic Cheer (Chic)
My Forbidden Lover (Chic)
Let’s Dance (David Bowie cover)
Good Times (Chic) / Rapper’s Delight