The O2 Arena transformed into a disco paradise by BluesFest with CHIC and Chaka Khan
CHIC are a band that have influenced, inspired, and grooved us and millions of other people, we’ve seen them live numerous times - including their phenomenal Glastonbury performance earlier this year. So it was hard to imagine how CHIC could top the astounding show they put on at one of the world’s biggest festivals. However, seeing the band with Nile Rodgers at The O2 supported by Chaka Khan, a legendary disco diva who has been on our live music bucket list since forever, for BluesFest was an unforgettable experience.
First up was the Queen of Funk, with a career spanning five decades, Chaka Khan. Squeezing so many great songs into one set was always going to be hard, yet the legendary vocalist still included some of the best work from her days with the band Rufus, opening with ‘Do You Love What You Feel’ to get the crowd in the party mood. Chaka still looks and sounds amazing, with an awesome sparkly fringed dress and a firey red mane of curls. Chaka Khan’s band were obviously impressive, with the bassist (and musical director) Melvin Lee Davis using an 8-string bass and playing a wicked solo that went from a Latino sound to a wah pedal D’Angelo style in the space of a few minutes. There were a few softer moments where you could really appreciate the power and range of the soul diva’s vocals as well with just her powerhouse voice and a piano. ‘Tell Me Something Good’ was a particular highlight too, but of course Ms Khan closed with ‘I’m Every Woman’ and ‘Ain’t Nobody’ which got all of the seated crowd up dancing and givin’ it laaaarge.
Having warmed the audience up during a somewhat early slot for a Friday, everyone was in the party spirit by the end of Chaka Khan’s set. By the time CHIC and Nile Rodgers came on stage, drinks were flowing, shapes were throwing, and voices were bellowing - as the evening’s host highlighted, ‘this is the soundtrack to our lives’. Performing all of the hits that Nile Rodgers has blessed with his hit-making formula, from Sister Sledge’s ‘We Are Family’ and ‘Thinking of You’ to Madonna’s ‘Like A Virgin’ and Duran Duran’s ‘Notorious’. Every song is an absolute banger that everybody knows, including their fabulous rendition of David Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’ which is always sung by the drummer Ralph Rolle, and boy does he know how to get the crowd hyped. When CHIC went into Daft Punk’s ‘Get Lucky’, the slow introduction had everyone’s phone lights in the air and was a magical moment to see after following the band for so long.
We have our gripes about The O2 as a venue; the facilities are so limited for such a big venue with queues at the bar longer than we have seen at most festivals, yet they’ve certainly got the space and funds to get more loos and bars there. However, despite the extortionate prices (£6.50 for a pint of Stella can fuck right off) and the fact you lose a lot of the sound clarity in that arena, the atmosphere at The O2 is something to behold as there are not many venues of this size with this many people, and to have that for a giant disco party in London was another magnificent way to see CHIC. We know their set list back-to-front now, but it is something we will never tire of, because they’re a brilliant band and know how to give people a fun show. Plus there is no way you can lose the voices of Chaka Khan, and CHIC singers Kimberly Davis and Folami (whose new solo single 'Four to the Floor' is available here).
The one thing we would’ve liked was to hear some new material, but obviously people want to hear the hits so we understand why they didn’t play any of the new stuff. It just seems a shame with a new record imminent – which will have guest artists galore and some old CHIC demos used to ensure that the whole original line-up still get to be involved. Whenever CHIC close a set, the whole lot of backstage spectators get involved and dance on stage to ‘Good Times’, during which Nile Rodgers and Jerry Barnes have a massive jam out on their guitar and bass, which was truly spectacular when blasted out across to 20,000 groovers during the finale of a fantastic disco-filled evening. It's always a pleasure to see CHIC, and Chaka Khan performed with force and glamour, now we're excited to see what the next phase has in-store for CHIC when It's About Time is released.