It’s amazing what a few pints and some Chic magic can do. Sheepishly clawing to their Guinness, stand a mature couple that seem about as comfortable with their surroundings as Vladimir Putin at a gay pride march.
There’s the smallest of delays tonight, with Cork’s answer to the Spinmaster, Stevie G, filling in on lost time with some of the finest disco cuts. But as the flustered couple make their way through the crowd for more of the black stuff, the din falls to a whisper and Nile Rodgers enters left of stage.
Cranking into life with the popping bass line and gorgeous piano sweeps of Everybody Dance, Chic waste no time in slapping one Nile Rodgers-sized grin across every face inside the sold out Leeside venue.
It’s an ecstatic reaction that even proves too much for the hit-maker himself, pausing momentarily to gather his thoughts before laying down a scratchy riff to the smoothest Chic hit I Want Your Love – a number that concludes with some incredible a cappella vocals from diva extraordinaire, Folami.
Tonight’s show is a mirror image of Nile’s personality: Gloriously upbeat and sugary sweet, each hit is propped by a technical ability that belies their party feel. It’s a history lesson of the most nonchalant kind, where the giants of dance from Chic’s Soup For One, Modjo’s Lady and the Sister Sledge classic Forbidden Lover morph into one spectacular ode to dance.
“As you guys know, I’ve been around a while now, and in that time I’ve written songs with Diana Ross, Duran Duran, David Bowie, and Daf… ,” he pauses, before turning to the band. “Did I work with another band beginning to D? If Nile is guilty of one crime, it’s humblebragging, but hey, if you had your name on 100 million records, while holding the world’s most valuable guitar, wouldn’t you?
As Rodgers breaks into his renaissance hit Get Lucky, the timid couple return. Inebriated and with a need to dance, it could easily be Dickie Rock on stage during the glory days of Showband. Tonight, shapes are made that have been lost in the annals of time – the Chicken Dance is brought out for a faultless drummer-led rendition of Bowie’s Lets Dance, while the YCMA, oddly, gets a outing for the prowling funk of Chic Cheer.
But Rodgers delivers a feel good party that encompasses everyone and everything, it really doesn’t matter if you’re six or sixty, if you do the Macarena or, emm, the YMCA – as long as the crowd are having a good time, it’s job done.
As Rodger’s details his battles with prostate cancer, bringing the audience on one final emotional trip, the band gather themselves for one last compilation of hits.
Their first single in 23 years I’ll Be There slots seamlessly into their discography, with the Chic vocal pair singing, “I don’t want to live in the past/ but it’s a nice place to visit” with the slightest sense of irony.
However, it’s the now customary Le Freak and closing instrumental that evoke the biggest response from the still buoyant audience, with the latter exhibiting some immaculate musicianship from the eight-piece.
But before music fades to silence, Rodgers assumes ringleader, introducing the members of Chic – surprising with the fact that our drummer, affectionately known as Biscuit, was new to band.
Biscuit, like the rest of the Chic was faultless. And what about that couple? Well, the night was “shepherds delight” according to the now weary lady – stretching back as if to reset what went amiss during her drunken endeavours. And that, whatever that means, is the best praise Chic can get.