Complete with a lighted floor harkening back to “Saturday Night Fever”, New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom became a disco for one night only. Hosted by the venue’s Clifton Pierce, CBS FM’s Joe Causi and Denny Terrio of “Dance Fever” were the MCs, where France Joli, Tavares, The Trammps and CHIC performed. Led by founding member Nile Rodgers on guitar, CHIC brought the FUNK!
The only group that used live instruments, CHIC was in rare form this past weekend. Joli, Tavares and The Trammps all sang to music tracks, but were by no means slouching, singing their hits full of spirit. Kim Kane of New York’s Power 105.1 said France had the look of a woman fulfilled with her life and very happy in her latter years. Tavares sang all their hits and even a couple of other R&B acts. The latest version of The Trammps sang their hits “Disco Inferno” and “Zing Went The Strings of My Heart.” Led these days by Earl Young, Trammps original member James T. Ellis, recently passed away on March 8th of this year. Chic appropriately kicked off their set with the smash jam “Everybody Dance” followed by their song “Dance, Dance, Dance.” Rodgers has put together a full band for Chic, and has been traveling with them for awhile. The guys playing the horns are off the chain, giving the group the same sound that they had in their hey day. The band played on, doing their tune “I Want Your Love,” followed by a medley of hits. “Its time to get funky, IT’S TIME TO GET FUNKY,” exclaimed Kimberly Davis, who was one of the guest vocalist for the evening. Rodgers dropped a few Sly Stone licks before rendering a set featuring songs he’s produced. Chic’s second guest vocalist Felonie, sang the Diana Ross songs “I’m Coming Out” and “Upside Down.” The band then went into “The Greatest Dancer,” which prompted a true throw back to hit the dance floor sporting a kangol and polyester threads. The second Sister Sledge hit “We Are Family” followed. As they sang “high hopes for the future,” I thought about those we’ve recently lost like Whitney Houston who shared my same age and victim Trayvon Martin, who was killed before the age of 20. Taking comfort in the fact that I’m still here, at that moment I determined yet again to fulfill my dreams for the future of my family. Rodgers then played his song “Soup 4 One” from movie of the same name. The film featured the late Teddy Pendergrass as a night club singer. Felonie then moved down stage once again to render the Madonna track “Like A Virgin,” wrapping the tune with a Madonna-esque “I Love You New York,” while batting her eye lashes. Wrapping the medley segment, the bassist joined Nile at center stage to perform David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance,” which is just one of the hits that Rodgers has produced for the pop icon. As they continued, the band proceeded to drop the last classic of the night originally sung by Sister Sledge, playing “Lost In Music.” Again I reflected on life, recalling being lost in music when that song was popular, taking stock in having pursued my dreams of working in music.
Nile then began to reel it all in, changing the tempo to drop the fan favorite “Chic Cheer.” At that moment I was taken back to a then new Giants Stadium for the “Kool Jazz Festival,” where CHIC was the headlining act. Thousands stood in the pouring rain with umbrellas bopping up and down to the rhythm of the music… but I digress, “My Forbidden Lover” was next and I thought of the original strings on that tune – can you hear them? The composition of that song is truly amazing. Rodgers closed with the bands biggest hits “Le Freak” and “Good Times.” A good time was had by all at the club that night, as my wife and I were joined by our dear friend Christina, who tipped us off about the event.
At the end of the night, Nile met and greeted friends and fans in the lobby, where he sold and signed copies of his new book “Le Freak: An Upside Down Story of Family, Disco and Destiny”. Released in October of 2011, it follows his life from the beginning of his music career as a session player; to the formation of CHIC; talking about the death of his friend and CHIC co-founder Bernard Edwards; his bout with cancer; to the start of the We Are Family Foundation, to now. Rodgers has worked with a countless number of stars and entertainers, and continues to tour with CHIC today. This summer, the group is scheduled for three dates in the UK, taking the stage for two dates in June and one in July.
For the past three decades, the production stylings of Nile Rodgers and the music of CHIC has been an integral aspect of pop music and the lives of many. A few more of the illustrious singers and entertainers that Rodgers has worked with include: Luther Vandross, Ashford & Simpson, INXS, Duran Duran, Mick Jagger, Sheena Easton, Grace Jones, Al Jarreau, Eric Clapton, and The B-52s. Nile’s first soundtrack was for the Eddie Murphy movie “Coming To America.” Some sundtracks for films that followed are: “Earth Girls Are Easy”, “Beverly Hills Cop 3”, “Blue Chips”, “The Flintstones”, “Rush Hour 2”, “Snow Dogs” and most recently “Semi-Pro.”
Last year, Nile worked with American Idol Adam Lambert and rocker Bryan Adams. Rodgers says working with Adams brought his musical career full circle, as Adams was a major CHIC influence. Earlier this year in February, he announced that he was collaborating with Daft Punk on their next release.