Loaded with festive spirit, the crowd gathered at Hammersmith’s Eventim Apollo for the Autism Rocks Sessions gig by Chic featuring Nile Rodgers was unmistakably in the mood for a party. And with help from Entec Sound & Light, the man with the million-dollar Stratocaster and his band ensured his audience funked the night away to a veritable jukebox of evergreen dance classics spanning the decadent days of the ’70s and ’80s… and beyond.
Fronted by the amiable Rodgers and his female vocalists Kimberly Davis and Folami Ankoanda, today’s incarnation of Chic not only serves as a reminder of their enduring catalogue, with a 90-minute set list that includes ’I Want Your Love’, ‘Le Freak’, ‘Dance Dance Dance’, ‘Good Times’ and ‘My Forbidden Lover’, it also celebrates Rodgers’ career as a legendary producer and collaborator for Diana Ross, David Bowie, Sister Sledge, Madonna, Duran Duran, Sheila B. Devotion and, more recently, Daft Punk.
The iconic bass lines originally laid down by Rodgers’ partner, the late Bernard Edwards are now handled with power, precision and even humour by the larger-than-life Jerry Barnes who forms a masterful rhythm section with drummer Ralph Rolle as part of the nine-piece line-up.
Since Chic returned to public performance, the band’s live sound has been masterminded by front of house engineer and production manager John Ryan, who was aided at the Apollo by Entec crew James Kerridge, Rik Hart and Emma Wood. “Wherever the band perform, our approach to production is essentially the same, whether it’s a small, private party, a theatre or large, open-air gig,” he said.
“When you’re touring the way we do, it makes sense to specify equipment that’s available throughout most of the world. Fortunately, Entec’s warehouse pretty much covers everything we’ve needed for this Hammersmith show. I’ve used Entec a few times and always found their service to be nothing short of excellent. Their crew and production advances are great. We walked in today and everything was ‘as per spec’. It’s almost like being at home.”
Ryan admitted that while he has no strict preference for a front of house console, he openly suggests brands such as DiGiCo. “I have a lot of experience with Yamaha, being one of the first engineers to use the PM1D system, but I can work with them all. Sometimes you’ll trade better sound quality for ergonomics. I certainly have no problem with the DiGiCo SD7 that I have chosen.
“This is treated very much like an analogue show in that I don’t use snapshots and prefer to mix on the fly. Snapshots are good to have if you’re dealing with an intricate, theatrical set that relies on different moods and effects, but this is a party from start to end and I have enough time to dial in everything as I go. This band’s so good at keeping the dynamics constant that it’s a relatively straightforward job of balancing for me.”
The microphone package supplied by Entec included a raft of Shure and AKG models, as well as an Audix D6, specifically for Rolle’s kick drum. “We are more inclined to use Shure microphones,” explained Ryan, “not only because of their global availability but because we have complete trust in them. I have a personal preference for a single Audix D6 on kick drum and for the last six years I’ve travelled with my own as a back-up in case the supplier doesn’t have one. To their credit, Entec delivered their own D6 and that was very good to note.”