Wednesday, December 06, 2023

Nile Rodgers & CHIC: Tiny Desk Concert

Sheldon Pearce | October 25, 2023

Before Nile Rodgers & CHIC set the Tiny Desk off, the icon established a sort of mission statement for the group's sound: "If we can funk in this, you know we can funk." They surely can. In stints since 1972, CHIC has assured its position as funk ambassadors — a position its members clearly relish — and no space is resistant to their grooves. When Rodgers asks singer Kimberly Davis to show the audience "how we do it in the CHIC organization," she launches into high-powered vocals that vaporize every note. And when he asks drummer Ralph Rolle to lead them to "maximum funkocity," Rolle ignites call-and-response with an electrified crowd. As the ringleader of the CHIC experience, Rodgers crams a lifetime's worth of nightlife into every strum of his guitar.

Rodgers' career is epic in both scope and impact. The 1979 CHIC album Risqué was a disco milestone that became a hip-hop cornerstone. Standing at inflection points for two different genres is enough to make a career, but Rodgers was far from done. An incomparable songwriter and session musician, his call sheet as a producer is emblematic of his immense range: David Bowie, Diana Ross, Madonna and Mick Jagger, just to name a few. His work is embedded in the very fabric of popular music, and he continues to add to his resume decades after first making changes to the sonic landscape. In 2014, Rodgers won the Grammy for record of the year with Daft Punk. This year, he amassed more honors for his work on Beyoncé's RENAISSANCE.

His wondrous set spans his massive catalog — songs he wrote for CHIC, songs he wrote with collaborators, songs he wrote for other stars and a surprise song he wrote for a classic movie. Throughout, Rodgers is the pulse for an ever-amplifying funk. The band's performance of "I'm Coming Out" builds to a rip-roaring sax solo. A rollicking performance of "We Are Family" breaks down in the middle before erupting to a triumphant finish. And atop the rippling bassline of "Good Times," Rodgers breaks into an impromptu version of "Rapper's Delight," which samples the song. It all leads to the maximum funkocity of Bowie's "Let's Dance," a tribute to the genre's reach and power.

SET LIST
"Le Freak"
"I'm Coming Out"
"We Are Family"
"Get Lucky"
"Good Times"
"Let's Dance"

MUSICIANS
Nile Rodgers: guitar, vocals
Russell Graham: keyboards, vocals
Jerry Barnes: bass, vocals
Ralph Rolle: drums, vocals
Richard Hilton: keyboards, vocals
Ken Gioffre: saxophone
Steve Jankowski: trumpet
Audrey Martells: vocals
Kimberly Davis: vocals

TINY DESK TEAM
Producers: Bobby Carter, Bob Boilen
Director/Editor: Maia Stern
Audio Engineer: Josh Rogosin
Videographers: Maia Stern, Kara Frame, Joshua Bryant, Alanté Serene
Audio Assistant: Ted Mebane
Production Assistant: Ashley Pointer
Photographer: Grace Widyatmadja
Tiny Desk Team: Suraya Mohamed, Hazel Cills
VP, Visuals and Music: Keith Jenkins
Senior VP, Programming: Anya Grundmann