Yowsah, yowsah, yowsah, I wanna boogie with you. And I did! As did many other fans invited onto stage by Chic to dance, dance, dance!
Yes, the legend that is Nile Rodgers graced the HMV Forum, together with legendary R&B / funk outfit Chic (in new formation), for a night of non-stop fun – playing a repertoire that catapulted the audience back to the era of Studio 54. Well, in spirit anyway, seeing how the Forum is not exactly a venue that oozes atmosphere from the golden days of disco (or any particular atmosphere at all!). And anyway, what is someone like Nile Rodgers doing playing the HMV Forum, hell, the Koko Camden would have been more appropriate! Not that it put much of a damper on Chic or Mr. Rodgers who, despite having spent most of the year battling cancer, delivered a show many will remember in time to come.
With his long dreadlocks, bandana and shades – not to mention a retro-style shiny white suit – Nile Rodgers greeted the audience and promptly hooked into the groove with some of Chic’s best-loved hits, including ‘Dance Dance Dance’ and ‘I Want Your Love’. The party continued with his hits and while Nile was the undisputed star shining at centre-stage, he kept the focus firmly on his guitar play. The real focus of attention were his two talented and foxy leading ladies, Folami Ankoanda-Thompson and Kim Davis-Jones.
Unfortunately, while singers and musicians as well as the crowd in the mosh pit (as I tend to call any crammed standing area) all had a funky good time, it was a different story up in the balconies. The minute fans stood up to join the party and dance, they were pinned down immediately by security-fascists who sure knew how to spoil the fun! This didn’t happen just once or twice but pretty much throughout the entire show. Shame on you, Forum, to treat paying punters like that! I guess that I and a few others were lucky to have had seats even further up, for the watchdogs didn’t seem to mind folks dancing in that particular corner. Still, just witnessing all the poor souls three rows below getting constantly told off by security kinda spoiled it for me, too!
After a selection of further Chic numbers including ‘My Forbidden Lover’, Rodgers spoke fondly of his former Chic partner Bernard Edwards, who died fifteen years ago. Rodgers and band then played ‘Spacer’, which they emotionally dedicated to Edwards. The gesture was received with rapturous applause.
After the last chords, Nile addressed the audience again to inform that over all those decades, he didn’t just write and produce songs for Chic but is equally responsible for numbers that were mega-hits for other acts (as if we didn’t know). Next, the band played a medley of some of those hits, including ‘Let’s Dance’ (David Bowie), ‘We Are Family’ / ‘He’s The Greatest Dancer’ (Sister Sledge), ‘Like A Virgin’ (Madonna) and ‘Upside Down’ (Diana Ross). While Kim Davis-Jones (there’s a voice for you!) belted out ‘Upside Down’; ‘Like A Virgin’ was skilfully handled by Folami Ankoanda-Thompson, whose voice seemed particularly suited for that song.
Just as impressive were the rest of the band, and we’re talking a further six musician here: Artie Reynolds on bass, Russel Graham and Rich Hilton on keys, Bill Holloman and Steve Jankowski on horns and last but not least, James Rouse on drums.
Save the best for last goes the old adage, so it came to no surprise that Chic’s signature hit ‘Le Freak’ was kept for the grand finale. And what a finale! Obviously aware that there had been ongoing issues with security throughout the evening, Nile asked them to “ease up and let everyone enjoy a good time!” Mr. Rodgers, I salute you! He thanked everyone for coming along and said how great it is to play in the UK because British audiences know all of his songs. And how lucky he feels to be here tonight, as he wasn’t sure whether he’d be around for much longer due to his cancer diagnosis. More rapturous applause!
Finally, as the first beats to ‘Le Freak’ kicked in, fans were invited to join Chic onstage. A minor stampede promptly followed. It was an amazing sight to behold (see pic) and I, for one, had never seen anything like it before. With so many people on stage and more climbing up, this could have turned risky. But it didn’t. Everyone simply just shared the fun. See what great things can happen when you get carte blanche to dance and enjoy the party? Ahh Freak out! Le Freak, c’est Chic…
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