Belfast
21 Jun, Friday
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Review: Nile Rogers & Chic – Waterfront Hall, Belfast

Good times. I mean, I suppose you wouldn’t write it in a song if you didn’t know how to deliver. And Nile Rodgers & CHIC know how to deliver, alright.

The musical legend and his accomplished backing band took to the stage at Belfast’s Waterfront Hall on Tuesday night.  Performing to a sold-out crowd, many of whom had returned with glee after witnessing 2014’s Custom House Square performance.

By the time Nile Rodgers stepped onto the stage, his crowd were already nice and warmed up by a pre-show DJ who dug deep into CHIC era-heavy hitters. A perfect starter for a crowd who didn’t seem too worried that it was a school night.

The six-strong backing band assembled into their places, Nile taking centre stage, flanked either side by the striking presence of immensely talented lead vocalists Kimberly Davis and Folami.

Starting proceedings as they mean to continue the band slowly teased into ‘Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)’ which built and flowed into the rapturous ‘Everybody Dance’. It was pretty clear what the audience was supposed to be doing at this point, and to be honest, I don’t think you could have stopped them if you tried.

There was a wealth of talented musicianship on the stage this evening.  However, it was only felt to its truest extent when the horn section was brought to the front of the stage for ‘I Want Your Love’s and ‘Lost In Music’s solo sections. Elsewhere you can see the talent but there’s a punch lacking that comes down to sound alone. I long to feel the groovy slap of Jerry Barnes’ bass or the crashing percussive breakdowns delivered by Ralph Rolle. But alas although tonight it wasn’t quite perfect – it was pretty damn close.  

Nile Rodgers is gracious and warm throughout, a warmth that shines through any sound imperfections and lights up the room to no end. As stated by the man himself, tonight is a journey through “A life in song” – and what a life it is.

Delighting the crowd with a selection of the wondrous work he has given to the world, the band delivered renditions of Dianna Ross’ ‘I’m Coming Out’ and ‘Upside Down’. Continuing through the Nile Rogers hall of fame, we received a sparkling cover of Sister Sledge’s ‘Greatest Dancer’. Followed closely by a crowd uniting ‘We are Family’. During the breakdown, vocalist Kimberly Davis gives such an astonishing vocal run that even Nile Rogers was on one knee bowing down to her dusky tones.

More fun filled classics came in the form of a Madonna double whammy: ‘Material Girl’ and ‘Like a Virgin’ from 1984’s album of the same name. Then suddenly the atmosphere in the room changed, the lights dimmed, and Nile lit with a single spotlight.

Sombrely he retold the heart wrenching, but darkly positive tale of his cancer diagnosis. It’s clear to see the passion that has driven the man to create so much music throughout his life. Faced with his own mortality, Nile Rogers told his adoring fans of his decision to “write more music than I ever have, record more music than I ever have, and perform more than I ever have”. A huge smile broke gleefully across his face and he declared, “I stand here today, cancer free.”

Slowly breaking the triumphant tension, the band are reintroduced with a down-tempo arrangement of a beautifully fitting song. “Get Lucky” from Nile’s 2013 collaboration with electronic giants Daft Punk. It’s not long before they kick that tempo back into double time, however, and the song’s true form takes control of the room.

It’s was an emotional night, one of joy, sadness and immense positivity from a man, and a band, who have meant a lot to so many. A collage of Nile Rogers’ career moves across the screen littered with familiar faces, one being that of the late, great David Bowie. It is followed by a homage to the man himself, ‘Let’s Dance’.  

The band finish what has been a star-studded set list with “a little more crazy than usual” version of CHIC classic ‘Freak Out’ and close on a perfect number, ‘Good Times’.

Damn, that was fun.