Nile Rodgers cranked the groove machine up to 10 and swept concert goers off their feet in a night of nostalgia.
NILE Rodgers shouldn’t still be playing today, technically speaking. He began his musical journey in the 1970s, along with Bernard Edwards, creating disco music with Chic.
With Rodgers on guitar and Edwards on bass, they were responsible for the biggest dancefloor fillers of their day (Good Times, Le Freak, Everybody Dance and others).
They could do no wrong back in the Saturday Night Fever age of mirrorballs, sequins and discotheques. In their down time, they also produced We Are Family and Lost In Music for Sister Sledge. Then, the magic carpet ride ended.
The “disco sucks” movement came along and drove a huge wrecking ball into the band’s disco titan stature. The anti-disco movement was formed in the late 1970s by fans of manly rock music who abhorred disco’s softer sound.
The disdain for the genre went as far as blowing up a crate full of disco records at a football field in Chicago in the United States in 1979.
Chic came to an end in 1983. But an undeterred Rodgers, who was incidentally, raised by heroin-addicted parents, went on to forge a solo career producing funky, feel-good records for Madonna, David Bowie, Duran Duran, INXS and others.
However, the times changed again. Acid house and grunge came along and rendered that type of sound frivolous.
Even if Rodger’s career had ended there, he could have taken pride in knowing that he was behind hits from two decades.
The 1990s and the noughties saw Rodgers soldiering on, producing and collaborating with artistes like Bowie, Van Halen’s David Lee Roth, the Dandy Warhols and playing guitar on records by Michael Jackson. But the hits weren’t flowing.
In 2010, Rodgers, 61, faced another challenge. He was diagnosed with an aggressive form of prostate cancer.
“I never let the cancer stop me from doing my job, which was playing music,” he said during a Red Bull Music Academy session, where he shared the intricacies of his craft.
Miraculously, the guitar-man was given a clean bill of health from his debilitating condition this year.
Recently, another miracle happened – Rodgers actually had a huge hit with his collaboration with EDM (electronic dance music) purveyors Daft Punk. Called Get Lucky, it became the song of the summer.
Interest in Rodgers output was soon re-ignited and he began to tour with a new version of Chic, as Edwards and drummer Tony Thompson had passed on in 1996 and 2003, respectively. Rodgers now helms a full eight-piece band that includes a brass section, percussion and backing vocals.
Dubbed Chic featuring Nile Rodgers, the band has played triumphant shows at Glastonbury, the Shanghai Electric Disco Carnival and Hong Kong’s music and art Clockenflap music festival and other Asian venues.
The ensemble took in Kuala Lumpur’s Live Centre, too, a couple of nights ago.
Formalities went out the window as he came on stage during the warm-up set by retro-DJ Jakeman, nodding his head to songs by Imagination and Bobby Caldwell, before heading backstage to get ready. It was clear that Rodgers simply loves music.
When it was showtime, he sauntered onto the stage, looking slim and dapper in a white suit, cutting a fine figure for someone his age, before launching into the boogie hymn Everybody Dance, the song he said was the first he wrote for Chic.
Rodgers led the band through Chic classics, as well as songs he produced for other artistes – Diana Ross’ Upside Down, Sister Sledge’s We Are Family, David Bowie’s Let’s Dance, Madonna’s Like A Virgin, Duran Duran’s Notorious and others.
The New York City native looked as if he lived to play his songs. Lost in the music he had created, he seemed to savour every moment on the stage, moving around and jumping up and down occasionally.
He played the genial host, too, speaking freely to the audience, who were a mix of young and old, saying how the band would love to be back in the capital.
The highlights of the 90-minute set were definitely Le Freak (a song that was initially titled an explitive) and the finale Good Times, which had select members of the audience (including dance artiste Melissa Indot) boogying down on stage.
Many of these people weren’t even born when the song came out in 1979, but the power of the song was apparent as these youngsters danced and expressed more passion than at an EDM party.
The Chic show discarded tradition, too – instead of leaving the stage at the final note, Rodgers hung around, autographed some vinyl records and copies of his autobiography, before calling it a night, revealing his magnanimous demeanour in the process.
The man has created hymns for the dance floor, all about good times and feeling great. We may never see another quite like him.