Some artists DJ using vinyl, some artists prefer to DJ with CDs and in recent times many DJs have converted to the electronic age, using laptops and mini controllers, including ourselves.
However, Nile Rodgers showed in Manchester last night he can DJ with a different instrument, quite unique in his talent with his guitar! Now I know we’re at the end of May and the temperatures are rising in the UK in anticipation of summer, but the heat in the Ritz last night was stifling. Yes it was a packed venue and throughout the gig the springboard dancefloor was being tested and used to the fullest effect but this heat was solar like.
Even Nile Rodgers himself commented at one stage he needed to catch his breath because of the heat, whilst getting a bottle of water. That was a point and a reason on it’s own why the man is so great. Upon drinking the water he yearned, the Chic guitarist went on to create an advert jingle about needing water, with it’s own jingle and catchy guitar riff.
It was quite sublime and memorable. Any bottled water companies should contact Nile and buy it, chances are it will increase sales hugely.
The stage show itself opened up with a couple of the early Chic disco classics, “Everybody Dance” and “I Want Your Love”. By this time looking around the majority of the crowd looked like they’d just run the Manchester 10k but none of it mattered, the disco ball was reflecting the lights and the party was in full swing. We were all there for the same reason to dance to some disco hits.
Following those hits to break the ice Nile Rodgers addressed the crowd to inform us of the upcoming show, that it would be a medley of hits he’d written or produced. These included everything from Sister Sledge and Diana Ross in the 70’s, Modjo to the turn of the millenium with Madonna, David Bowie and Duran Duran somewhere in the middle.
According to a recent documentary, Nile Rodgers has played guitar on over £1 billion dollars worth of record, his guitar isn’t named the hitmaker for no reason. Anyway, back to the show, at the point Rodgers was informing the crowd of this medley and the hits about to be played, he reminded us that people sometimes think of Chic of a covers band, whereas they are an organisation. Unlike a covers act, Nile has every right to play these songs because of his part in playing, producing or writing the songs.
During this medley we heard live renditions played by the current Chic lineup of “We Are Family”, “lost in music”, “He’s The Greatest Dancer” made famous by Sister Sledge. “Lady, here me tonight” made popular by Modjo amongst others such as “Notorious” the Duran Duran classic without forgetting of course “Like a Virgin” the renowned pop hit instrumental in establishing pop diva Madonna.
Throughout this medley, two realisations dawned upon me. The first which was a big surprise and extremely rare in a live show I’ve found, is that the performances of these songs sounded superior to the originals, the pure energy and rhythmical timing of Chic hypnotic. In my opinion “Like a Virgin” sounded much better sang by the current female Chic vocalist, the soul sound overpowering the pop original.
Secondly, was the sheer the amount of musical influence and historical significance Rodgers has given us over the last 35 years or so. This has never happened to me at a gig before, whilst I’ve had the pleasure to see some of my favourite bands and artists from Stevie Wonder to Jimmy Cliff, Prodigy to Foo Fighters, Oasis to The White Stripes one aspect has always been consistent. For how great those bands or artists were their legacy is their own and no one else. The tracks of a band or artist you love are from themselves only usually, and mostly from a defined period of around 5 years or so. Obviously there are some exceptions and I’m generalising but hopefully you get the gist.
However the versatility of being able to blend with and shape shift to create timeless hits collaborating with so many different artists over such a long period is surely unrivalled. Rodgers explained he’d just received a text from Columbia Records regarding his latest collaboration, on the Daft Punk album,”Random Access Memories” arguably the most anticipated album for some time. The text said the album had gone to number 1 in no less than 79 countries. How many other artists are still performing at their top level generating hits well into their 60’s?
Going back to the DJ reference, it’s those little guitar riffs from Rodgers often which made the aforementioned hits so iconic and memorable. As each hit was strummed, it felt like it’s own unique place in the history of a different artist and that made it special.
Another special moment occurred during the end of the set, when legendary evergreen Mancunian guitarist Johnny Marr formerly of The Smiths joined Chic on times for the rendition of the hit “Le Freak”. On the recent documentary about Nile Rodgers life he explained the hit originated when the band were refused entry to iconic 70’s New York Nightclub Studio 54, and was the result of a jam. Pretty funky jam I’m sure you agree. Rodgers and Marr are apparently so close Marr named his child after Nile, this closeness was evident rhythmically during the performance of “Le Freak”.
Finally the house well well and truly brought down if it wasn’t already by the performance of “Good Times” which I counted as lasting way over 10 minutes. The disco ball continued to reflect the light in what was an epic night and Rodgers meticulously congratulated each and every band member met by a rouding round of applause from the fans.
Finally, the latest smash hit “Get Lucky” was played through the PA and Nile waved goodbye to Manchester. This was the funkiest night in the city of 2013, mark my words.