Chic featuring Nile Rodgers @ The Tivoli, 15.12.2013


Ever since I’ve been interested in music photography (and that’s quite some time) one of my very favourite photos and probably my favourite group shot has been the Jill Furmanovsky photo of Chic. Group photos is something I don’t do a whole lot, I’ve always much preferred a portrait style but getting a good shot of a group is a difficult task to get everyone perfectly framed. Normally you’ll always end up with one person who’s got their eyes half shut or their mouth half open, with their tongue sticking out, or you’ll get someone who just isn’t positioned right, showing too much of their back to you. Sometimes you take an almost great shot but find that the microphone stand or the guitarist’s headstock is covering someone’s face. Jill Furmanovsky’s photo is just such a perfect shot, perfectly framed and, probably most important of all, it really tells you a story about Chic and their music even if you’ve never even heard it. Although I’ve got zero chance of replicating that photo (especially as bassist Bernard Edwards died in 1996) or coming up with anything as good as it, it’s in the back of mind for tonight’s show.

There are early shows and early shows but with tonight’s headliners due to start at 6:30pm, it’s in a whole different ballgame compared to most. Even for a Sunday night it seems a fairly ridiculous time to start playing, not that I’m complaining. There’s nothing I like better (and I’m so glad I didn’t photograph the recent Flying Lotus show at The Hi-Fi which started at 11:30pm on a Thursday night because I would have been so mad at the inconsideration of the very idea of it and so tired at work the following day).

The next out of the ordinary thing that occurs is that Nile Rodgers wanders onstage to do his own soundcheck. I know it’s only a reasonably small show at The Tivoli but it’s fairly bizarre watching him test out the levels on his guitar and microphone and have an impromptu chat to the crowd about it all. I’m positive that the band has got an army of roadies to help set up and do those things so it’s just really strange seeing someone who’s probably one of the richest people I’ve ever seen close-up in real life do something so un-rockstar-like.

I did read autobiography a couple of months ago and it was, for the most part, a wonderful read. He had a crazy upbringing of drug addict parents and cross-country trips back-and-forth to stay with more responsible relatives, a really tough sounding childhood but he never shows any sign of anger or regret at it about it in the book. I read far too many musician autobiographies and biographies than is probably healthy but this was one of the better ones in recent times, at least in terms of ‘stories’ (it was no Morrissey autobiography, mind). The only disappointment was that the last fifteen or so years of his life was pretty much skimmed over, perhaps no surprise given his life and who he worked with during the 1970s and 1980s.

Tonight’s set is a Nile Rodgers’ Greatest Hits set, his own songs plus songs that he worked on as producer. Looking at the setlist and then hearing all these songs, it’s remarkable just the impact he’s had on popular music. From those timeless Chic classics to the songs they wrote for Sister Sledge and Diana Ross to the songs he produced for Bowie, Madonna, Duran Duran and INXS. The shows starts off at a ridiculous pace, with a staggering run of ‘Everybody Dance’, ‘Dance, Dance, Dance’, ‘I Want Your Love’, ‘I’m Coming Out’, ‘Upside Down’, ‘He’s the Greatest Dancer’, and ‘We Are Family’. It does drop off in the middle with a few less known songs although strangely the weakest song of the night is the cover of ‘Like A Virgin’ which just doesn’t seem to work as a live song, it’s just too stilted. The show picks up again and ends pretty much as it began. Watching the band play ‘Le Freak’ as their final song of the main set and coming back for an encore of ‘Good Times’ is just amazing.

As expected, I didn’t come away with any photos that are going to stand the test of time like that Jill Furmanovsky shot but still got some ok ones. It turns out to be my last show of the year and it’s an thrilling way for 2013 to end.

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