Bringing back the Good Times

Joe Costello witnesses the return of Nile Rodgers to the Birmingham stage.

This wasn’t supposed to be my first indoor gig in eighteen months – a show that was part of the Coventry City of Culture Celebration was moved to the Cathedral ruins at short notice and another at the start of the month was rescheduled – but I’m glad it was.

There is nothing like a steady stream of familiar tunes to blow away the cobwebs of Covid and a good 20% of the songs performed contain the word ‘dance’ in their title if anyone was in any doubt of how the evening would progress.

Nile Rodgers must be one the few musicians you could probably recognise on the basis of hearing them play a single note or chord, so distinctive and unique is his style. Early in the set after a couple of Chic tracks Rodgers asks the audience how many of them are seeing the band for the first time and explains that as well as Chic, he’s been responsible for a swathe of other artists work and we hear songs by Diana Ross, Sister Sledge, Madonna, Daft Punk and accompanying anecdotes also referencing his late writing partner Bernard Edwards.

Then he introduces what he believes to be a curveball, an obscure track by an obscure band and for the third time in a week Duran Duran’s Notorious rings through the Institute, Nile claiming afterwards he had no idea he was playing to the gallery on this occasion but frankly I think he knew full well what he was doing.

A final flourish of Let’s Dance, Le Freak and Good Times – how many musicians could claim that triumvirate for the home straight? then there was the obligatory introduction to the band and plectrums donated to the fans at the front. An excellent ninety minutes of entertainment was sealed and my step count for the day double the average I have managed since last March.