Chic and Nile Rodgers bring Good Times to kick off Liverpool Music Week 2017

Posted on 27 October 2017
By Amy Farnworth
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The Echo Arena danced and partied under the lights of the biggest proverbial disco ball on earth last night, as 70s funk-soul-disco-pop legends Chic and Nile Rodgers opened the 15th annual Liverpool Music Week with an almighty bang!

Emerging onto the stage to a chorus of rapturous applause, Rodgers and his Chic family marvelled at the packed arena, and when we say packed, we’re not over-exaggerating, as there didn’t appear to be an empty seat in the house; it was as if the whole of Liverpool had turned out for this special performance, and what a performance it was!

Strutting up to the mic with all the confidence of a seasoned rock ‘n’ roller, Rodgers casually shouted: “Alright? I have a feeling you came here to party!”

It was the utterance of that immortal line that set the tone for the entire evening.

With a full band comprising of keys, bass, drums, rhythm guitar, sax, trumpet, vocals… the lot… Chic and Nile Rodgers triumphantly began their hour and a half set with the ever-popular, Everybody Dance, which saw Rodgers running back and forth across the stage wielding his famous guitar with the grace of a ballet dancer, and fingering the strings with the force of a hurricane.

From the off, the performance was mesmerising; it was as if the energy in the Echo arena had already been cranked to eleven, even before Chic had entered the building; there was no time for dawdling; the audience weren’t getting eased into a set that would culminate in a cathartic encore; oh no, they were thrown right in at the deep end, and what followed was hit, after hit, after glorious hit – Rodgers and his incredible crew playing some of the biggest and best known tracks to have ever graced the music charts.

Dance Dance Dance and I Want Your Love swiftly followed the opener, with the acoustics completely on-point and the lead vocalists absolutely nailing the timing, the pitch and the emotion; honing their craft and stretching their soulful vocals to within an inch of their lives.

The magnificent Kimberly Davis, a veteran with the Chic outfit from the very beginning, belted out the lyrics in her gutsy, soulful, confident style, sending shivers down the spine as she seamlessly floated in and out of a medley of tracks that Rodgers wrote and produced for the likes of Diana Ross, Sister Sledge and even Madonna.

From, I’m Coming Out, to Upside Down; from He’s The Greatest Dancer (which was interspersed with the lyrics ‘Getting Jiggy Wit It’, from a song released in 1997 by Will Smith, in which he samples the aforementioned Rodgers’ produced track), to We Are Family and Like A Virgin, Chic and Nile Rodgers held the crowd in the palms of their hands; the excited audience singing, chanting and shouting the lyrics back at every single opportunity.

Interacting with the audience with an ease that only a veteran of the music business could, Rodgers demonstrated his love of playing to such an enthusiastic crowd. He’s a born showman, Rodgers, and with the continuous dancing, clapping and buzzing coming from the sea of excited heads looking up at the stage, it was clear to see that it wasn’t just the audience who were in a state of euphoria, Rodgers was too.

Without wanting to sound too gushing (although it’s difficult not to after being swept up in the catharsis of the night), the atmosphere inside the Echo Arena was absolutely electric. The vibe from the standing area alone emulated that of a worshipping crowd taking in the majesty of a Glastonbury headliner; and even the punters in the cheap seats were up out of the stands, dancing around in the aisles.

The evening wasn’t just about the vocals or the instant recognition of Chic’s legendary songs though, it was also about the pure music; the craftsmanship and the talent, the dedication and the ownership of some of the most beautiful sounds that could ever be produced from a mixed bag of instruments. Bill Holloman dazzled on the tenor sax; Richard Hilton mesmerised on the keys, and Ralph Rolle rattled the drum kit, while Jerry Barnes provided a sweet, sweet bassline to make even the most cynical of fans close their eyes and feel the rhythm.

For such a highly charged performance, Rodgers managed to slow the pace down a little towards the second half of the show, by commemorating late musical partner Bernard Edwards and playing the wonderful Lost In Music. He also spoke about how the chosen set was basically his whole life in music – from his very first song right through to the present, and hopefully on to the future too.

And in a totally unforced manner, Rodgers, the ever graceful gent, began to explain his connection to Liverpool – how the very first song he learned to play on guitar was the Beatles’ A Day In The Life. The crowd went wild. And from there he launched into the 1979 hit, Thinking Of You.

Perhaps sticking with the sentimentality that this section of the performance allowed, Rodgers openly spoke of his recent battle with cancer and asked the crowd to get out their phones and hold them up to create an ocean of light in a room of darkness. He talked about luck and about how seven years after his diagnosis, he was finally cancer free; fittingly then, it was only right that Get Lucky, the track he collaborated on with Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams was next on the set list. It was all arms in the air for the crowd at this point and Rodgers beamed with hope and happiness.

In a somewhat surprising shift in dynamics, drummer, Ralph Rolle launched magnanimously into Bowie’s 1983 hit, Let’s Dance (another song produced by Rodgers), his vocals reminiscent of the late Thin White Duke’s. For a moment, it felt like Bowie was back with us, and the crowd lapped it up, for all its sentimental worth.

For a band who have stood the test of time, over four decades, one century and even a millennium; who’ve transcended many a genre and who’ve waded their way through some tough battles, Chic and Nile Rodgers absolutely ruled the opener of Liverpool Music Week.

Ending the night with Good Times (perhaps the most sampled track in music history), Nile Rodgers told the crowd that this is what they stood for: “Good times, good dancin’, good lovin’ and having fun.” and seeing as every Chic performance has to end with a party, this one did not deter from the norm, as the band invited some lucky members of audience onto the stage to dance along with them.

There was absolute euphoric catharsis at the Echo Arena last night, and Liverpool Music Week was certainly opened in style. The bar has now been set stratospherically high, so if this is anything to go by, the rest of the week’s festivities should be just as exciting.

Purple Revolver Rating: 6/5