The Warehouse Project: Chic feat. Nile Rodgers (01/11/13)

by Michael Pearson

It was a refreshing experience; a social scene that has become largely dominated by DJs and chemical intoxicants, being revitalised – almost 40 years on – by one of the bands responsible for the birth of dance music.  The success of an event such as Manchester’s Warehouse Project would impossible were it not for modern dance music and DJ culture (which I don’t want to knock), but Chic’s performance last Friday night was a very poignant reminder that the atmosphere of true live music is difficult to beat.

There was no doubt that the event was oversold.  Room 1, host to the warehouse’s main stage, was – to put it lightly – uncomfortably busy from around 11pm, just before Hot Chip began their set – which was phenomenal, by the way.  To make matters worse, it seemed as though everyone was there to see Chic, who weren’t due on stage until 1.50am.  The final wait before their set was was an anxious one, as a slow, uneasy surge of people ebbed through an already-full room.  However, as the band walked on stage and  the teasingly-extended intro to “Everybody Dance” finally kicked into full groove, I was rewarded with a blaze of energy and comfort, as the tension amidst the crowd ceased.

Chic B&W

The following hour or so was a fantastic blur of some of the greatest dance songs of the 20th Century, consisting of Chic’s unmistakable classics, such as “Dance, Dance, Dance”, “I Want Your Love” and “Chic Cheer”.  But what made the show even less forgettable was the addition of further pop hits, all of which Nile Rodgers (and most of which Bernard Edwards) produced.  This included David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance”, Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out”/”Upside Down”, Duran Duran’s “Notorious”, Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family”/”He’s The Greatest Dancer”, et al.

The relevance of this music today is impossible to ignore, but to contextualise it further, the band performed two medleys involving covers that directly referenced Chic’s music.  The first was Modjo’s early-2000 release “Lady (Hear Me Tonight)”, which contains a sample of  “Soup For One”.  As a child of the 90s – which was true of a fair portion of the Manchester crowd –  this song was poignant to my youth; part of a revolution in House/Nu-Disco that came at the turn of the Century.  So, to experience the predecessor to the dance music of my generation showing appreciation to its derivative, made me feel part of the band’s music, as opposed to being an objective viewer succumbing to a false sense of nostalgia.

The set was neatly summed up by a short announcement from Rodgers expressing the three things that Chic stand for – “dancing, partying and having a good time” [cue the band’s most iconic song, “Good Times”].  As the final song commenced, hundreds of balloons were released from the ceiling, satisfying the crowds’ wait for that wonderfully predictable moment.  Though the whole event seemed anything but pre-meditated, and was instead one of the most spontaneous and ecstatic sensations I have ever gained from music.

Chic - Good Times

As a last show-stopping flourish, Nile Rodgers began rapping The Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight”, which famously samples the track’s monster bass line and rhythm guitar.  Rodgers’ presence was unavoidable and his energy was infectious,

“I don’t usually go this crazy at the end of the show but this was the last full #CHIC concert so I went off @WHP_Mcr“¹

Even as the show comes to an end, the music of Nile Rodgers continues, with Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky”/”Lose Yourself To Dance” blasting through the PA – perhaps the most fitting moment to hear the most over-played song of the summer.

Hats off to the most genuine display of dance music I have ever experienced – and yes, that’s from from a band, not a DJ.

¹ https://twitter.com/nilerodgers/status/396494447438856192/photo/1

All media © Michael Pearson 2013

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