Live: Fold Festival @ Fulham Palace.
Emin, Anne-Marie, CHIC with Nile Rodgers and Beck @ FOLD Festival
FOLD Festival or the Freak Out Let’s Dance Festival is enjoying its second year, to celebrate curator and creator Nile Rodgers has decided to share it with London.
Opening the show was Emin, a singer-songwriter better known for his soaring torch songs, he played a pop fuelled disco set to set the tone. Saturday of the festival coincided with PRIDE London which seems a shame, the rainbow crowd would have bolstered numbers and would likely have awarded him some solid new fans. His short batch of songs had a slightly Eurovision quality to them especially his biggest commercial number Amor, but for warming up the crowd regardless of the impending rain and getting people to their feet he deserves a solid ‘dix points’.
Arriving with the sunshine is ex-Rudimental singer Anne Marie. This summer heralds the launch of her, well received, solo career. She is giddy on stage, like a child who is delighted to be given the limelight but doesn’t always know what to do with it. Her powerhouse vocals sit comfortably over dance tracks, and she seems most at home singing on instant R&B classic Gemini. Her voice softens from her raw Essex accent to a faux Jamaican patois which trips easily over the phrasing. For the joyful, 90’s-esque house tune, We Got Love, a giggling Anne Marie precociously instructs the audience on how to be an audience, “I’ll show you where to clap!”
Anne Marie has clearly been writing her own lyrics, covering the standard trials and tribulations of twenty-something women. Introducing the confessional Used to Love You, she says, “This is a song about a boy.” The heavy, dirty beats that ensue would sound more at home in a club in the wee small hours, or blasting from the rolled down windows of a compact car than filling the air in this rather parochial setting. Nonetheless, the crowd are charmed by her playful performance as she mimes along to the stuttering percussion and grins with an open mouthed smile. This is a gal with a future as bright as the rays breaking through the clouds.
As the sun dips out of view between acts, the skies threaten to unleash a monsoon, and the crowd begins to flee for cover. Nile Rodgers appears on stage. “Let’s all dance to chase the rain away!” On command the skies clear. His production skills have influenced, informed and instructed music relentlessly throughout his career. Where would music be without his work with Diana Ross, Sister Sledge, Bowie, The Sugarhill Gang, Duran Duran, The B52’s, Madonna, the list goes on and on. This innovator has never been boxed into any one musical genre, but there is no denying that he specialises in music to make you dance.
For Nile Rodgers there never was a last day of disco. His band CHIC has always had a fluid line-up, with over fifty former members. It may no longer consist of the original core, besides Rodgers, but they are now constructed from house, funk and R&B stars who channel the golden era of disco whilst making original songs feel fresh and relevant. Vocalists Kimberley Davis and Folami Ankoanda join Rodgers on stage in matching colour block satin wrap dresses looking elegant and poised. Rodgers is an exceptional band leader, pulling the musicians in to tight routines and opening up disco standards for interpretation and freestyling. This is not camp music, these songs are classics for a reason, Rodgers and bass player Jerry Barnes lay down hard, deep funk to bridge a greatest hits medley. Even with such diversity, there isn’t a song the crowd don’t know. From Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowzer, Yowzer, Yowzer), I’m Coming Out to He’s the Greatest Dancer (which some will know as the integral sample from Will Smith’s 1998 hit Gettin’ Jiggy Wit It). The audience are captivated by Nile Rodgers at centre stage flanked by the female vocalists, vogueing away, freezing momentarily like art nouveau fashion plates before strutting over to the keyboardist or guitarist and back.
Singling out the singer to his right, Nile Rodgers calls, “Kimberley Davis, make some noise, show ’em what we do.” Her response to his call is an electrifying spectrum of vocal gymnastics delivered with such power and soul she leaves the crowd dumbstruck until she pauses for breath and the they erupt in a roar of screams and applause. With just one beat the whole band kicks into We Are Family, followed by Soup For One (also known as the track sampled for 2000 song Lady (Hear Me Tonight) by Modjo) and Notorious with harmonies closer than a razor. There comes a pause before Rodgers introduces CHIC’s most recent song, 2015 release I’ll Be There, “It’s really hard to play. We have to sing up on the downbeat, y’know, it’s really hard.” The song itself is composed of classic disco elements; musical flourishes, crisp hand claps and shimmering harmonies.
Rodgers takes a moment to address the audience as a piano tinkles softly in the background, he explains that five years ago he got sick, really sick. Listening to him bare all I feel like this story should be narrated by Dave Lee Travis over the theme from Romeo and Juliette. This is, of course, a dramatic device to build up to heartfelt performance of Rodgers (and Daft Punk’s) mega hit Lucky. Lucky merges seamlessly into C.H.I.C., just as a brilliantly orchestrated cover of Bowie’s Lets Dance is blended with dance floor gold Le Freak.
The climax of CHIC’s performance comes as performers, venue management and volunteers join the band on stage to belt out a mash up of Everybody Dance, Good Times and Rappers Delight in one inclusive, generous party which seems to melt away the barriers between stage, VIP and festival punters.
Headlining the Saturday performance is Beck, a performer, producer and experimenter who follows in the footsteps of Rodgers merging musical styles and pushing his music beyond pop. The dusky sky being suitably dark allowed for a kaleidoscopic, video backdrop of vivid colours and spinning graphics. Beck may be small in stature but he makes up for it with stage craft. In a bid to keep everyone’s attention he radiates charisma, his baby pink suit jacket and snappy sharp brimmed hat didn’t hurt either. Opening with laid back Devil’s Haircut and jingly jangly Girl before the crowd chant along full throated to Loser.
It’s at this point that Beck addresses the audience reminding them that Odelay the album which was manly listeners introduction to Beck is now twenty years old. What better way to rejoice in that fact than with a rendition of Hotwax that saw the crowd bobbing along and spreading out away from the barrier to dance. Turning up the energy Beck gives a shout out to all of the people he had intersected with earlier in the day celebrating PRIDE London, in their honour comes a zippy version of Mixed Bizness. Next up, crowd pleasing, fun renditions of Sissyneck and a cut up cover of Billie Jean handing the vocals over to his guitarist Jason Falkner.
Further highlights of Beck’s repertoire include melodic pop perfection New Pollution, I Think I’m in Love and Dreams. The latter saw Beck whipping his microphone cord and throwing shapes around the stage with joyous enthusiasm. Bopping around to Sexx Laws Beck flings off his pink jacket swinging it around his head in a sarcastic striptease.
After the customary encore demand, the band returns with Beck looking refreshed in a white jacket and matching hat for Where It’s At a versatile song which he resurrects multiple times as a refrain in other songs, breaking up numbers to remind everyone he’s, “Got two turntables and a microphone”. Now it’s his turn to offer a mash up as he blends CHIC’s Good Times with Bowie’s China Girl, a synth clip from Kraftwerk’s Autobahn and Prince’s 1999. As if he is aware that there isn’t much more he could give of himself after such a delicious musical stream of consciousness, he offers to massage the audience, or do their laundry, to give them pot purri and apricot exfoliating creme. Finally announcing, “I just wanna shake my banana for you!”
Steady on Beck.
In summary this festival is less of a traditional large scale festival and more of a big garden party. It’s a mini festival, maybe even a Lilliputian festival made to feel all the smaller by the grand surroundings and the seemingly giant airplanes flying overhead on their descent to Heathrow. FOLD is Nile Rodgers’s party and you’re all welcome. Why wouldn’t you want to come, this man can stop the rain.
FOLD goes Stateside the weekend of 12th, 13th and 14th August 2016 at Riverhead, New York. The US line up differs, so please check listings for full details.
Emin, Anne-Marie, CHIC with Nile Rodgers and Beck @ FOLD Festival Saturday 25th June 2016
Live Review by Sarah Sievers. Photography by Simon Jay Price