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Musical Review Rodgers, the ringmaster, has them dancing in the aisles

MIK SABIERS just soaks up the atmosphere of joyous abandon

Nile Rodgers and CHIC
Meltdown Festival
Royal Festival Hall
★★★★

It’s the opening night of this year’s Meltdown — the world’s longest running artist-curated festival — and standing centre stage in the spotlight in the Royal Festival Hall is none other than musical maestro and producer extraordinaire Nile Rodgers.

Rodgers, following in the footsteps of David Bowie, Robert Smith, MIA, Robert Wyatt and many more, is in charge of curating this year’s festival, bringing together an eclectic selection of music and events on London’s South Bank.

And on this opening night he treats the audience to an anecdote-filled welcome and walk through some of the highlights of his career from being inspired by Bryan Ferry, partying with Madonna, facing strikes in France, recording with Bowie and sweeping up for Sinatra all framed under the aegis of “I write ensemble music.”

It’s an interesting and insightful prelude to what comes next.
Returning to the stage after a short interval, and dressed head to toe in a silver suit, Rodgers is joined by the latest incarnation of his ground-breaking disco band CHIC.

And the ground shakes as the bass begins, the drums and keys kick in and the harmonies sing out all with Rodgers and his guitar sitting on top of the mix guiding the groove and exalting the audience to get on the floor and dance – and they do.

Opener Everybody Dance sets the scene for the next 90 minutes which fly by with a host of classic tracks all sprinkled with Rodgers’ magic touch.

Highlights include a cover of Diana Ross’s I’m Coming Out and there’s a bombastic version of Bowie’s Let’s Dance which everyone grooves along to, mixed in with a bit of Madonna, some Sister Sledge and more.

Bass player Jerry Barnes is second to none, Kimberly Davis’s vocals soar and the greatest cheers are for the CHIC tracks with Le Freak seeing the room literally freak out as a mass stage invasion takes the night towards a close.

All in all Rodgers acts as a ringmaster bringing together talent and making them better than the sum of their parts, and as the night ends he’s there trailing the rest of the festival calling on everybody to “Dance, party and have a good time.” Judging by this opener, they will.
 
More on Nile Rodgers Meltdown: southbankcentre.co.uk/whats-on/festivals-series/meltdown.

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