Nile Rodgers and Chic open 2019’s Meltdown Festival at Royal Festival Hall
Southbank Centre’s annual festival Meltdown offers a rich variety of curated arts and culture by an alternating artist. 2019’s funky bill is selected by prolific hitmaker Nile Rodgers, who, alongside his “R&B/dance/disco/funk/soul” band Chic, opens the festival with a sold-out performance at the illustrious Royal Festival Hall.
It’s a poetic event because, in his introduction, the artist speaks of Chic forming after a night in London where he and Bernard Edwards saw Roxy Music and decided that they wanted to be the black version. To craft a similarly sophisticated image, they claimed to be from France, hence the band name.
A lengthy portion is devoted to David Bowie, which includes a play of Let’s Dance’s original arrangement – something only a handful of individuals have previously heard. In spite of his drug-addled heyday, Rodgers recalls a countless number of “rock’n’roll war stories”, which feature everyone from Miles Davis to Obama.
Few musicians have had such a Forrest Gump-esque involvement in the industry. As enlightening as it would be to continue listening to his anecdotes, it’s time for music. The band takes the stage in formal wear – Rodgers trades his patchwork jeans for a silver suit – and initiate a throwback evening with their first number one record, Dance Dance Dance.
As well as lead guitarist, Rodgers is on vocal duties, supported by singers Folami and Kimberly Davis, who fill in for Diana Ross (I’m Coming Out, Upside Down), Sister Sledge (We Are Family, Lost in Music) and other associated acts in this jukebox of hits. Their belting vocals impact the weathered eardrums of this mostly Gen X crowd.
The artist violates his pact with Madonna by performing Material Girl, but surely Madge would approve of this clean rendition. Thinking of You has a poignant subtext, preceded by Rodgers dedicating the Sister Sledge hit to Edwards, accompanied by an endless photo album of the co-founders with artists from Paul McCartney to Avicii.
The lyrics project the reactions – everyone dances to Let’s Dance, freaks out for Le Freak and enjoys Like a Virgin like they’re hearing it for the very first time. Whilst singing and dancing are a concert’s basic tenets, this critic has seldom experienced a gig where singing and dancing was so ubiquitous. Few artists could put on a show like this: one that exhibits a peerless body of work whilst reinforcing its ideality for the dance floor.
Photos: Victor Frankowski
For further information and future events visit Nile Rodgers’s website here.
Watch the video for I’ll Be There here: