On a warm Autumn day in near perfect weather, three icons of yesteryear took to the stage at Botanic Park in a show for all the ages. With Lionel Ritchie taking top billing, Leo Sayer and the magnificent Chic, led by one popular music’s most underrated and influential talents, Nile Rodgers, more than held their own in an enthralling evening.
Leo Sayer still knows how to belt out a tune. His backing singer rounded out and softened the sound of Sayer’s slightly sharper voice and resulting harmonies were perfectly mixed. A fantastic pianist and the occasional switch to acoustic guitar added a bit if variety over the standard rhythm section. Sayer’s mega hit You Make Me Feel Like Dancing with the brilliant chorus hook and the thick harmony was easily the standout of his set and one of the best moments all night. The extended version and the call and answer was a nice touch. I Can’t Stop Loving You was another beautiful moment which came across magnificently live, while One Man Band and Moonlighting also stood out in the set.
Sayer’s bright red Hawaiian over-shirt against an all white ensemble was definitely a good choice for a big outdoor concert in front of thousands. That signature afro has obviously been very well maintained over the last few decades. And a good thing too.
Perhaps, for many, the most anticipating part of the night wasn’t the headline act. Nile Rodgers has been one of the most influential musicians in pop music history, although not necessarily known to all. However, his role in shaping hits for Madonna, INXS and Bowie was instrumental and it was only fitting that Chic played tribute to all of the afore-mentioned acts. The cover of Rodger’s collaboration with Daft Punk, the huge hit Get Lucky went down a treat, particularly after he revealed it came about after a bout of cancer. Chic’s live act is arguably one of the greatest on the planet in the wider popular music world, let alone in the disco realm. With two amazing soul singers with huge vocal ranges, an unbelievable bass player, drummer and above all, Rodgers’ signature percussive funk style guitar playing, the show was one for the ages.
Rodgers made sure the show was one to remember, urging the crowd to get involved, bringing people on stage and taking to the stage prior to the show, telling people that they would basically roll through the hits due to time constraints.This sort of commitment to putting on a great live show and audience management is reflective of a deep commitment to making sure a show leaves an impression… and boy did it ever. With hit after hit after hit from Le Freak, Good Times, I Wan’t Your Love and Everybody Dance, these are songs that are made for live performance and more importantly, for dancing. With such an incredible band playing songs designed to sound great and get people moving, it was little wonder this was one of the shows of the year, let alone one of the greatest performances that many in the audience will have ever experienced. If Chic ever does tour again, we urge anyone with a love of good dance music, funk, disco or even house music to go see this historically significant band, or at the very least do some research and run through their back catalogue.
With the huge lighting show and the epic production, Lionel Ritchie’s huge live entertainment spectacle perhaps was greater than the actual performance. The band certainly couldn’t be flawed with a great lead guitarist, bassist and singing multi-instrumentalist. Ritchie’s voice for much of the set, however, just didn’t carry the punch that perhaps it once did. With a lot of vocal strain, the richness of his vocals, paled compared to those of Chic’s singers and to a certain degree, even Leo Sayer. Still, much of Richie’s appeal, is his charisma and above all, the power of his compositions and neither of those could be in any doubt. His well honed live persona is something that certain American acts have a knack for, having rehearsing lines to thousands year in year out and it definitely showed.
Say You Say Me was yet another classic that was one of, of not the biggest highlight of the set, with the perfect sound mix. Three Times a Lady was a sentimental favourite which slowed down the pace but brought the emotion into the show. Commodores classic Brick House, with its funk edge and the sweetly romantic Three Times A Lady worked well on the big stage. The 70’s visuals for the former looked fantastic too. Predictably, Hello, sounded huge live and the audience revelling in the presence of an icon, lapped it up. It has to be said, Ritchie does ballads much better than the higher energy funk songs which don’t showcase best of his voice. Dancing On The Ceiling was the highlight of the night though, with the super catchy chorus while and All Night Long was, as expected, a great live performance.
With a mix of his signature big ballads, iconic pop hits and more danceable numbers, Lionel Ritchie put on a huge arena show which was, for the most part, pretty flawless. But if we’re honest, the night belonged to Nile Rogers and Chic.
Pics: Phil Williams