Review: Nile Rodgers & CHIC @ The Fortitude Music Hall (Brisbane)

Nile Rodgers & CHIC played The Fortitude Music Hall in Brisbane on 20 October, 2023.

Nile Rodgers – hit-maker extraordinaire, co-founder of seminal disco band CHIC, multiple Grammy winner, and both a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Songwriters Hall of Fame inductee – brought his blistering live show to Brisbane, and the 'Good Times' didn't disappoint.

From the heady '70s disco era throughout which he and CHIC co-founder Bernard Edwards loomed large in a blaze of rhythm and funk, to the '80s pop explosion led by Madonna, David Bowie and Duran Duran – and more recent collaborations with Daft Punk and Beyonce – Rodgers' influence has spanned decades.

With songwriting and production credits running a mile long, the man could play for days, but this was more than a throwback nostalgia show, even if Brisbane's babysitter network would've been in high demand on Friday night (20 October) as a knowledgeable – let's say 'more mature' crowd – conversed on The Fortitude Music Hall.

No, any set list which sees Daft Punk's 'Get Lucky' and 'Lose Yourself To Dance' rub up against Sister Sledge's 'Thinking Of You' and Modjo's 'Lady' (which famously samples CHIC's 'Soup For One') makes for a celebration of good music, regardless of when it was produced.

Taking to the stage with his band at 9pm sharp, Rodgers announced he was "going to be really unprofessional tonight," emotionally sharing how watching excerpts of the forthcoming Daft Punk documentary – which he features in – for the first time before the show had brought him to tears.

This sentimentality would prove to be a hallmark of a tight, 90-minute set, as Rodgers shared reflections on the origins of some of he and CHIC's biggest hits, before letting the hits themselves do the talking.

Old photographs and brief interview excerpts projected on screen behind him was a nice touch, further reinforcing the long-term impact of one of music's greats.

But what about the music? From energetic opener 'Le Freak', to 'Everybody Dance', 'I Want Your Love' and, later, 'My Forbidden Lover' and 'My Feet Keep Dancing', the power and longevity of CHIC's catalogue was underlined.

Vocalists Kimberley Davis and Audrey Martells credibly delivered some of music's biggest generational hits, the latter's versatility on show during powerhouse renditions of Diana Ross' 'I'm Coming Out' and 'Upside Down'. Madonna's 'Like A Virgin', similarly, was delivered with aplomb.

Rodgers and CHIC's touring stamina is well known; since June, the collective has played a 30-date tour of Europe and the UK, sandwiched in between a 26-date tour supporting Duran Duran's US and European Future Past show.

No math is required; CHIC's ongoing relevance is in no small part to Rodgers' love of playing live, and the ensuing tightness and intuition of his band in Brisbane was a testament to the old adage, 'practice makes perfect'.

At 71, Rodgers prowls the stage like someone half his age, grinning ear-to-ear as he wills on the crowd, jamming with the brilliant bassist Jerry Barnes and working his vintage Fender 'Hitmaker' Stratocaster.

Many in attendance would've been jiving along to CHIC classics upon their release in the late '70s, perhaps explaining why a few of the more modern numbers – like Beyonce's 'CUFF IT' – didn't elicit the same reaction as those rusted-on anthems.

These were brief lulls, however, well overshadowed by a parade of hits that further reinforced Rodgers' tentacle-like grip on both classic and modern music.

David Bowie's 'Let's Dance' was a highlight among highlights, and after closing with an extended, rousing rendition of 'Good Times' interspersed with 'Rapper's Delight', the crowd waited momentarily for an encore that wouldn't come; after more than 50 years and hundreds of millions of records sold, CHIC closed on its own terms.

'Legend' is a term bandied about flippantly these days – particularly across the music scene – but there was no doubting the presence of a true legend at The Fortitude Music Hall on Friday night.

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