THE protracted preamble on the opening night of Chic’s first ever arena tour suggested that bigger was not necessarily better, not even for a proven hitmaker like Nile Rodgers who takes the business of writing popular songs very seriously.
Nile Rodgers, Hydro, Glasgow ****
With the venue far from capacity, DJ Mistajam counted down to the headline set with what became a tawdry hard sell for Chic’s new album, It’s About Time. The first new Chic material in 26 years has, regrettably, not been worth the wait and Mistajam only had limited success persuading the crowd that “it’s party time”.
The music of Chic shouldn’t and doesn’t need to be flogged or forced. At its best, it is irresistible, organic, escapist and glamorous party music which sells itself – likewise, the stellar array of hits which Nile Rodgers has written and produced for others, many of which were incorporated in this all killer, no filler set.
Curiously – or shrewdly - Rodgers entirely bypassed the new songs to concentrate on the classics, kicking off with the effervescent Everybody Dance and Chic’s evergreen debut single Dance Dance Dance, heritage cuts which still felt timeless.
Rodgers emphasised the singalong simplicity of the vocal hooks, while also giving his splendid singers Folami and especially Kimberly Davis the latitude to show off their chops.
But these songs are also instrumentally exquisite, cohesive productions with space for masterful but never indulgent solos such as the funky brass breakdown and fierce guitar/bass duet which embellished I Want Your Love.
If there was any indulgence, it was Rodgers’ justifiable extended medley of “my Number One hits” for other artists, including Diana Ross’s disco pop anthems I’m Coming Out and Upside Down, a soulful rendition of Duran Duran’s Notorious and his modern classic Get Lucky, which was given the Chic “R’n’B dance funk soul disco band” treatment.
A joyous brace of Sister Sledge numbers was crowned with Lost in Music, arguably the greatest example of Rodgers’ pop craft and his most intoxicating guitar hook – though the warm funky solo which bridged Let’s Dance and Le Freak was sheer sonic ecstasy. And although the Hydro could never be mistaken for a heady New York disco, the band brought the freewheeling spirit of Studio 54 to an extended Good Times with pure enjoyment etched on the faces of the fans who joined them onstage for a brief boogie.