THE GUARDIAN THE OBSERVER Tuesday December 21, 1999
Chic/The Best Disco in Town Live 2!
Not that long ago, disco music was reviled for its monotony and synthetic style, but it appears that disco itself has now become a Golden Age of Pop. According to the programme notes "we have to ask if dance music today can emulate the sheer organic joie de vivre of real musicians, communicating with real people". Take that, S Club 7.
Meanwhile, the crowd who had traipsed out to hideous Wembley (if they're pulling down the stadium, why stop there?) clearly expected nothing more than a tacky seasonal knees-up with the brain disengaged and handbags whirling. There were families of all ages, hen parties and bunches of blokes wearing curly Scouser wigs doing the conga. The supporting cast duly trundled through their paces - George "Rock Your Baby" McCrae, Leo "not really disco is it?" Sayer , The Weather Girls, the rather good Trammps and their Disco Inferno, and the karaoke franchise which calls itself The Village People.
But finally the headliners Chic came on, and it was as if somebody had opened a door into a different universe. Now billed as "Nile Rodgers and Chic", this incarnation of the group is more like fusionmeisters Weather Report than some creaky touring novelty act. Bristling with keyboards, syncopated drum rhythms and real live horns, they cracked through a concentrated set of all their best-known material as if to prove not only that Chic never died (although Rodgers gives no hint that deceased bassist Bernard Edwards ever existed), but that labelling them "disco" was like mistaking Dom Perignon for Babycham.
What had once been mere songs were transformed into vast, thundering grooves of Himalayan proportions. They kicked off with Le Freak, Rodgers controlling the tempo with his incomparable rhythm guitar pattern, and drove it harder and harder until meltdown loomed. Dance Dance Dance was lit up by jazzy vocal harmonies from the group's three female singers, while Everybody Dance and I Want Your Love were reminders of Chic's knack for slipping a hint of menace or a tremor of anxiety beneath their sleek commercial veneer.
A medley of Chic-produced hits, including Upside Down and We Are Family, built up to the rhythmic cataclysm of Good Times. Then they were gone. The crowd, apparently oblivious to the awesomeness of the performance, barely bothered to clap and shuffled towards the exits. It must be enough to make Nile Rodgers weep.