Billed as Freak Out Night: the Evolution of Disco to Dance Music and curated by Chic mainman and überproducer Nile Rodgers, and his “little baby brother” Mark Ronson, the penultimate event of the 46th edition of the Montreux Jazz Festival lived up to its promise.
It also demonstrated the knack veteran promoter Claude Nobs – the “Funky Claude” of Deep Purple’s “Smoke on the Water” fame – has for bringing together generations of music-makers to create a one-off occasion that will linger long in the memory, for a variety of reasons in this instance.
Elly Jackson of La Roux jawdroppingly forgot the lyrics to the second and third verses of her chart-topping single “Bulletproof” and resorted to ad-libbing and admitting “I haven’t done a gig for over a year” before apologising profusely.
“Clearly, I’m not Bulletproof at all.” She recovered well with a vibrant reading of Carly Simon’s “Why” – a Chic production Rodgers had never performed – which exploited the vulnerability she had just demonstrated.
The centrepiece of an eight-hourplus marathon, Chic’s set included just about every hit bearing the Rodgers signature sound, the metronomic guitar that was sampled by French house duo Modjo for their 2000 No 1 “Lady (Hear Me Tonight)” and drove David Bowie “Let’s Dance” – conceived in Montreux but here sung by drummer Ralph Rolle.
Best was The Smiths’ “Stop Me (If You Think You’ve Heard This One Before)” done à la Ronson with him, Rodgers, and the song’s co-writer, guitarist Johnny Marr, backing the majestic Alison Moyet who had already revived her Yazoo electro hits.
The soirée tried to cover most dance genres, with opening act Tavares providing a neat link back to Seventies disco with the Bee Gees composition “More Than a Woman” from Saturday Night Fever, Ultra Naté singing her Nineties house anthem “Free” and Martha Wash of The Weather Girls tackling the hi-NRG evergreen “It’s Raining Men”.
French disco king Marc Cerrone dusted off his cheesy 1977 floorfiller “Supernature” – also with Jackson – but was outdone for gruyère by local de l’é tape, the Swiss-born Patrick Juvet, a late addition to the bill, who mimed badly to “I Love America”.
Most puzzling was the appearance of the surgically enhanced Taylor Dayne, a Madonna-also ran, who hollered her three hits-wonder, among them a cover of Barry White’s “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love, Babe” I had erased from memory.
Following underwhelming DJ sets by Ronson, Dimitri from Paris and Felix da Housecat, Rodgers reminded everyone that Chic wrote “Le Freak” after being refused entry to Studio 54 as guests of Grace Jones in 1977. She duly made an entrance, outdivad everyone and closed the show on a high with a hula-hoop-assisted performance of “Slave to the Rhythm”.
Chic and Nile Rodgers play The Magic Loungeabout festival at Broughton Hall, Yorkshire, 27 July