GIG REVIEW: Nile Rodgers @ Belsonic, Custom House Square, Belfast
Nile Rodgers scooped up three Grammys this year, cool to the last thread of his dreads, taking Record of the Year for Get Lucky - an international Number One in over 80 countries. He then jammed with Daft Punk, Pharrell Williams and Stevie Wonder. This week, we got lucky.
Nile hit the right note from every decade of funk classics, as he blew away the Belfast crowd at Belsonic to showcase his “whole life in music” with his band Chic.
On a fine, but fresh night, as we would say in these parts, the man in his trademark beret and white suit enquired: “Is it normally this cold?” He then needed to retune his trademark white Fender Stratocaster.
The band Chic - also looking the part in pristine white - entertained the crowd while that was going on, before we all got Lost in Music again. Often on vocals was the wonderful Kimberley Davis, who strutted and sparkled with verve, as her voice soared across the city, lit up by disco lights, against a clear night sky.
Part of the joy for serious music fans was how a different arrangement can give diverse artists an edge. Bowie co-write Let’s Dance was a swirling highlight of sound. I want Your Love and We are Family were equally joyous, but Rodgers almost seemed like he was apologising, as he set up Get Lucky, popularised across the world by the French electroheads.
“Daft Punk had the hit, but this is our version,” said Nile, as he ranged across the stage, Strat in hand and beaming smile in place throughout the non-stop set. Freak Out was the vibe.
Of course, the band was drilled to a funky and soulful to almost hip-hop tonal perfection as well, with Folami on vocals, as well as Kimberly Davis, Bill Holloman on sensational saxophone, Don Harris on trumpet, Jerry Barnes on bass, veteran reliable Ralph Rolle on drums, and Richard Hilton and Russell Graham on keyboards.
Nile Rodgers himself was of course both on guitar and vocals and the 61 year-old is a soul survivor, literally. Told by the doctors that he had serious cancer three years ago, he wrote some songs, thinking he would “rather die living, than live dying”.
Now he’s in recovery, glad to be alive and making the world a joyous place for all of us. Rodgers has written or arranged for a raft of artists like the thin White Duke, Sister Sledge, Madonna and Avicii and played everywhere from Glastonbury to Ibiza.
What a bonus to see him in the bijou surroundings of Custom House Square; top marks to Belsonic for a cracking concert.
For more information on forthcoming Belsonic gigs visit www.belsonic.com/.