Nile Rodgers – lost in mu­sic

Nile Rodgers cranked the groove ma­chine up to 10 and swept con­cert go­ers off their feet in a night of nos­tal­gia.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - By STEVEN PA­TRICK en­ter­tain­ment@thes­tar.com.my

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 reignited 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.

Rhythm of the night: Nile Rodgers cer­tainly was, turn­ing the au­di­ence at KL Live in­side out with a steady stream of groovy clas­sics.

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