Monday, June 24, 2024

Peace, Love and Good Times at Sherwood Forest

Nile Rodgers isn’t really a musician. He’s an elemental force of nature, a universal constant, a herald sent by a higher power to teach humans how to live a life of joy. 

As a recording artist, writer and producer, he has clocked up something in the region of 500 million album sales worldwide. That means that one in every 14 people on this planet has bought an album into which Nile Rodgers has sprinkled his creative genius.

Riding the 1970s disco wave as Chic and hanging out with the megastars at New York’s Studio 54 led Rodgers to write and produce for some of the most recognisable names in the music industry over the past 40 years. Madonna, Sister Sledge, Daft Punk, David Bowie, The B52s, Avicii. Duran Duran, Diana Ross, Grace Jones, Steve Winwood, Debbie Harry, INXS, Thompson Twins, Mick Jagger, Eric Clapton, David Lee Roth, Ric Ocasek, The Stray Cats and Keith Urban have all enjoyed ‘chicification’ along with the dozens of movies for which he has written and produced the soundtracks. Rodgers has received six Grammy Awards, including the Grammy Lifetime Achievement/Special Merit Award. So, it’s pretty clear then that he’s something special behind a recording desk. But can he perform live? There weren’t any bears in Sherwood Forest, but if there were…

The evening’s entertainment was opened up by a fabulously cheerful set from Deco, their modern blend of lively 80s synth pop getting the audience in exactly the right mood to enjoy an evening’s dancing in the beautiful forest clearing. Deco didn’t miss the opportunity to promote their upcoming debut album release, ‘Destination: I Don’t Know’.

Next up, Sophie Ellis Bextor and her Kitchen Disco brought a sparkly, energetic, fun-packed set. She effortlessly fuses disco with modern themes and rhythms, giving her a cross generational appeal that is hard to beat. Anyone still in their camping chairs by this point was fighting hard to resist the infectious energy and relentless pace of the music.

Finally, surrounded by trees and under a balmy blue sky, Nile Rodgers and Chic took to the stage with style, class, glamour and that hard-to-define something that so many musical artists have wanted to share over the years. At the age of 71, Rodgers’ guitar style has developed into an effortless masterclass of dexterity. The musicians on stage were a testament to Rodger’s high standards and attention to detail. The whole show was perfectly crafted, choreographed and constructed and yet retained a fluidity, an organic sense of joy. Chic put the fun in funk and then hammered it in with layers of disco, pop, soul, jazz and R’n’B.

In the pauses between songs, Rodgers shared some thoughts and experiences, memories and emotions whilst the giant screen behind him showed highlights of his musical life journey. He described his gratitude at being a two time cancer survivor, dedicated a song to his lost Chic co-founder Bernard Edwards and came across as a thoroughly good, genuine, lovely man, demonstrating that it is possible to be both successful and kind. Rodgers’ appreciation to the audience was strongly evident throughout the whole thrilling, jumping, joyful set.

As a musical anthology, the show featured an incredibly diverse range of songs, all with that unique Nile Rodgers sound threaded through. From the explosive opening ‘Le Freak’, through ‘Upside Down’ (Diana Ross), ‘We Are Family’ (Sister Sledge), ‘Like a Virgin’ (Madonna), ‘Let’s Dance’ (David Bowie), ‘Get Lucky’ (Daft Punk), ‘Notorious’ (Duran Duran) and many more to the roaring, screaming, jumping, swaying, tree-shaking finale, ‘Good Times’, the incredible performance had thousands of people and no doubt a few woodland creatures dancing, clapping and singing along. The whole event was a benchmark for what live music can be - joyful, engaging and unforgettable.

Signing off with the characteristic Chic credo, the show really did deliver what Nile Rodgers promised - “Peace, love and good times”.

Forest Live continues at Forestry England sites across the UK into July.

Peter Freeth



Images: Peter Freeth

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