Monday, 29 July 2013


Legendary composer, producer and guitarist Nile Rodgers comes, sees and culturally conquers an excitable Derry-Londonderry audience

There is a massive commotion amidst the stifling humidity in a thankfully thunder-free Ebrington Square before the doors to The Venue 2013 have even opened. It is hoped that the only thunder we hear will be from the sound of The Venue’s floor by concert's end; and, judging by CHIC’s reputation, such hopes do not go unfounded. We are, after all, talking about the brainchild of Nile Rodgers and the late Bernard Edwards, a collective who have influenced, inspired and worked with numerous successful artists, in addition to delighting audiences with commercially successful disco tunes for nearly four decades.

To have Rodgers here tonight, amidst the hot pants, multi-coloured clothing, afros and excitability of the people of Derry-Londonderry and beyond, is a privilege indeed; and the layer upon layer of jungle harmony that we hear from Celtronic's Gareth Stewart, designed to warm us up for the main event, makes the atmosphere even more entrancing.

Then, it happens. The DJ's music dies down. The restless crowd lift their arms and begin to clap. Nile Rodgers and CHIC enter the Venue stage to deafening applause. And what an extremely humble performer Rodgers looks! Dressed in a white suit with a guitar by his side, this dreadlocked "soul brother", now sixty, seems too chilled out to be the near-masterful producer and composer that he is. But this is one of those occasions where you should, as the saying goes, never judge an book by its cover.

For energy will be key here. Two songs into the set, and everyone is dancing and raising their hands in the air, clapping spiritedly and almost certainly rhythmically to the sight and sound of Rodgers' guitar, his brass, key and drum backing band, and female vocalists Kim Davis-Jones and Folami Ankoanda-Thompson. One of Rodgers' guitar solos during these early numbers suggest that he is going to adhere to the strengths of the Venue's recent Elvis Costello concert and raise them up a notch; hooray for "old" rockers everywhere, indeed.

Things then take a turn, from flat out retro disco to a nostalgic journey through the ages. A series of songs produced and/or co-written by Rodgers for artists as diverse as Diana Ross, Sister Sledge, David Bowie, INXS and Madonna get the CHIC-over. Whether they play "We Are Family", "Like A Virgin", "Let’s Dance" or "Original Sin", the high-tempo groove remains constant, reenergizing the familiar, enervating clichés, transcending the predictable and creating a dynamic vibe. "Sometimes", says Rodgers, "playing these songs makes us feel old, but then we remember how young we were when we wrote these, and I hope we make you feel young." That he does, turning the floor of the Venue into an extremely funky dance hall.

All those recognisable riffs, bobbing quiffs, guitar solos, soulful vocals and big brassy instrumentals would be enough for any memorable concert, but Rodgers will soon raise things to another level. As the end of the night approaches, he is clearly basking in the feel good factor that both him and the Derry-Londonderry audience now have, and marks it by inviting a series of locals to join CHIC on stage!

The sight of numerous citizens, including members of the Culture Crew – the "Derry Dancers", as he calls them – grooving along to the best performance of "Good Times" one can hope for is a perfect City Of Culture moment. It's truly LegenDerry dancing; something the Venue has certainly been full of tonight as a whole.

And while the performance itself doesn't quite have the novelty of Political Mother or the variance of Sons & Daughters, it possesses an energy, atmosphere and excitement that many of the entertainments this year have not been able to match. CHIC have come, seen and left Derry-Londonderry ready to culturally conquer the remainder of this seminal year on as high a note as possible.