Nile Rodgers is a legend, but many people don’t realise it until they hear the set list at one of his live gigs.
He is the man behind the soundtrack of your life – everything from Madonna’s ‘Like A Virgin’, to Duran Duran’s ‘Notorious’, and almost every other sample of every major record including hip hop or dance music. Those recognisable riffs in Modjo’s ‘Lady’, or The Sugarhill Gang's ‘Rapper’s Delight’, Rodgers made it first.
A 1,500-strong crowd in Singapore had the honour of witnessing Rodgers with Chic, live at the Kallang Theatre on 3 December. While Rodgers, 61, is the sole surviving member of the original Chic (bassist Bernard Edwards and drummer Tony Thompson have died), he's keeping the music alive with a stellar backing band. And boy, was it a nonstop party, from start to finish.
THE HUMBLE ROCKSTAR
Even before they took the stage, it was clear that Rodgers isn’t your average rock star. His entrance was surreptitious: he emerged from the stage in his trademark all-white suit without any fanfare. He proceeded to take photos of the crowd, wave to the fans and even greet a lucky few from the mass gathered at stagefront.
Nile Rodgers took the time to take pictures with fans both before and after the concert
The nine-piece band then came out one by one. A full ensemble of drums, horns, keys, bass and vocals, who proceeded to take the already hyped-up audience on a jukebox journey that spanned three decades of hits.
TIME-TRAVELLING THROUGH MUSIC
Starting off with the 1970s, the band played Chic originals ‘Everybody Dance’, 'Dance Dance Dance' and 'I Want Your Love'. It was old-school disco at its classic best, with Sister Sledge’s ‘We Are Family’ and ‘Greatest Dancer’ added to the mix.
Rodgers’ singers deserve special mention for their straight-out-of-the-70’s sensuous, co-ordinated choreography and on-point vocals. And taking on Diana Ross’ ‘I’m Comin’ Out’ is no mean feat.
The audience and the band fed off each other's energy as the night became a nonstop disco party
The night progressed into the 1980s, and ‘Like A Virgin’, ‘Notorious’ and David Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’ (with Rodger’s drummer impressively doing double duty on both vocals and percussion) featured in this section of the concert.
“By now, you’ve figured out, this is my life in music,” said Rodgers mid concert, and what a rich life it has been. The music was soul-stirring and nostalgic, melodies modern music can’t hold a candle to it. It’s no wonder, Rodger’s trademark white 1959 Fender Stratocaster, on which all the songs were written, is called "The Hitmaker".
Rodgers shredding it on his guitar, nicknamed "The Hitmaker"
Before they wrapped up, the band played their biggest hit, ‘Le Freak’, complete with disco whoops and highly stylised synchronised dancing.
Far from divas, towards the end of the concert, they broke down the fan-artiste barrier, inviting at least 20 people up on stage after Rodger’s announcement of “We’re going to take you back to the days of Studio 54”. The band then played ‘Good Times’. By the mixed group of people on stage, it was apparent how much their music transcended age, ethnicity and gender.
A ROUSING END
In an interview with The Guardian, Rodgers explained that the first time he plays ‘Get Lucky’ live, he wants it to be with french duo Daft Punk. So we had to make do with the recorded version of it played over the stereo at the Kallang Theatre, not that it mattered whether he played it live or not. The crowd sang along to every word without much prompting, confirming the fact that this is one of the biggest records of 2013.
Towards the end of the night, Rodgers shared the band's credo: “We believe in dancing, partying, singing, loving and having a really good time.”
The band delivered on all counts.