Music & Nightlife

Forty years after ‘Le Freak,’ Chic offers escapism with career-spanning dance party

Courtesy of Nile Rodgers Productions

Walk into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame exhibit in Cleveland and Nile Rodgers’ face is one of the first you see.

It’s fitting given the recent inductee’s reach and influence over the last four decades of rock n’ roll and dance music that his image presides over the exhibit entrance, but he admits it smarts that his band Chic has been nominated 11 times without an induction.

Even if you don’t know him by name, you likely know his face, long dreadlocks and backward Kangol cap from appearances in hundreds of music documentaries and episodes of “Behind the Music.”

If you don’t know his face, you know his songs, which fans can hear Friday when Chic and Earth, Wind & Fire co-headline Spectrum Center.

He and late bassist Bernard Edwards founded the band Chic in 1976 and ruled the disco charts with tracks like “Le Freak” and “Good Times,” which endure as party-starters to this day. He’s also had his hands in hits by Diana Ross and Sister Sledge, produced the biggest albums of David Bowie, Madonna and Duran Duran’s careers, and more recently won three Grammys for his work on Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky.”

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Courtesy of Nile Rodgers Productions

“It’s a celebration of my own life,” says Rodgers, who experienced a life-changing health scare seven years ago. “I was diagnosed with extremely aggressive cancer and it looked like I wasn’t going to be around, so it’s a celebration of my life in music, these great collaborations and these great people, whether it’s Chic and Bernard, Daft Punk, Duran Duran or Diana Ross.”

The 2054 tour with Earth, Wind & Fire commemorates 40 years in the business and 40 years since the hey-day of Studio 54, from which the tour takes its name. Chic’s set not only covers its hits, but others’ hits like Bowie’s “Let’s Dance.”

Given the parallels between that era and today, the tour is a timely one, he adds.

“Forty years ago ... we were in the greatest recession since the Great Depression,” Rodgers says. “We were really poor and suffering.” Music like theirs, he says, is “fun and fantastic” and makes “people feel hopeful. It reassures people that these bad times are just temporary. It’s exactly the right time for this kind of tour. From the moment you walk into the venue, it’s a disco party.”

Critics may have dismissed disco in the ’70s, but Chic’s sound was calculated.

“People are losing jobs and the stock market’s about to crash. We used that for motivation,” he says. “We looked at the Great Depression and the bands that came out of that jazz era. We’ll be the modern version of those kind of bands. The songs were structured after the marathon. That’s why our singles were eight minutes long. There’s a whole concept that people don’t think about. (There’s) powerful thought that goes into making a Chic album that’s packed with information and double entendre.”

According to Rodgers, there’s no better time for Chic’s music. But he put releasing a new album on hold following the deaths of Prince and Bowie.

“So many things ended up contradicting the story arc of the album,” Rodgers says. “Things are tense. We wake up every morning and go, ‘Not another one.’ We hate to see the news.

“The great thing about music is we have the ability to move quickly. We have the ability to make people feel good.”

Chic (Featuring Nile Rodgers)

The disco band opens for Earth, Wind & Fire.

When: 8 p.m. Friday.

Where: Spectrum Center, 333 E. Trade St.

Tickets: $89-$125.

Details: 800-745-3000; www.ticketmaster.com

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