Nile Rodgers and CHIC – Live Review – Scarborough Open Air Theatre
By Steve Crabtree, August 2021
One of the greatest concerts I’ve ever been to was Nile Rodgers and CHIC when they visited Scarborough Open Air Theatre in 2017. Back then, I knew all his music, but I didn’t realise what an amazing live show he and his band were taking around the world.
So, when it was announced that they were to return here in 2021, I dug out my disco shoes and got myself there on another warm, late summer evening. Me, along with thousands of others heading into this amazing music venue, were in excitable mood. I’d brought my partner to this one, and promised her she was in for a treat. And we weren’t about to be let down.
“Shiny hit after hit”
With doors opening around 6pm, up-and-coming band Deco kicked things off to warm us all up. I enjoyed them the previous week when they supported Culture Club, and they were a perfect choice to get the night going for this one too.
And just before the main act took to the stage, a few soul tunes from the CHIC era got our feet moving that little bit more. Brilliant news for me, much of my Spotify favourites playlist just adding to an already uplifting atmosphere. It was as if I’d organised the whole night!
Then, when 9pm arrived, so did the main man and his band. That massive smile, that hat and that crisp white suit… and a setlist worth billions of dollars.
They opened with ‘Chic Cheer’, and ‘Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)’ followed straight after. Not that we needed instruction to move our feet or anything: Those of us in front of the stage were dancing, and absolutely no-one was sat down in the seats either. That was pretty much the scene for the whole two hours.
Rodgers is a peerless maker of the ‘timeless hit’. And with a show that bombarded us with namedrops aplenty, he gave us shiny hit after hit. We either got tunes that Nile Rogers and CHIC had released themselves or songs Rodgers has written for other people. Every one of them we knew. Every one going down a storm with the Yorkshire crowd.
‘Everybody Dance’ and ‘I Want Your Love’ came at us with pace. And we weren’t stopping for a rest anytime soon. The Rodgers-penned ‘Material Girl’, ‘Modern Love’ and ‘Lost In Music’ were also performed for our pleasure, reminding us just what a genius songwriter and producer Nile Rodgers is.
“Funky, seamless rhythm”
For their live act, they barely change their set-list, or indeed their song order. Rodgers has this thing where he gets things into this funky, seamless rhythm and the whole show seems to fuse into one.
That said, he likes to tell a few anecdotes, and you can’t help but enjoy his stories and admire his genius. He’s rubbed shoulders with Madonna, Bowie, Diana Ross, Duran Duran and more. Hundreds more. Beating cancer. Remembering his friend Bernard Edwards who started all this with him, over 40 years ago. He’s certainly had a full-on life, and a full-on, successful career.
And as well as that, you can’t help but fully get bitten by a Nile Rodgers and CHIC show. I’m not even going overboard here, the feel-good factor with ‘Le Freak’ and ‘Get Lucky’ is almost indescribable. Calling it one huge disco plays it down a bit.
“The coolest man in music”
We did get to semi-slow the tempo down a touch when ‘Soup For One’ came out towards the end. But even that picked up the pace as it blended in to ‘Lady Hear Me Tonight’.
Nile Rodgers is up there as one of, if not the coolest man in music. And he was rightly treated like a hero by us in the audience. At 68 years old, his shows are all about the music, the dancing and the good times. Aptly, they ended with ‘Good Times’ before giving us a wave, letting us catch our breath and letting us go. Rodgers didn’t leave the stage too quickly though. He made sure he returned the adulation to us as we had to him, and the night ended at the Scarborough Open Air Theatre the way it’d been for the entire show. On a massive high.
If you haven’t seen Nile Rodgers and CHIC, it’s definitely one to get on your list. Twice.
Images: Cuffe & Taylor