Deco, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and Nile Rodgers & Chic performing at Forest Live Sherwood Pines Mansfield on Friday 21st June 2024.

Images and Review by Kevin Cooper

It was camping chairs at the ready, picnics well packed and the sun beating down for what was the first of three nights of music deep in the heart of Sherwood Pines. And on Friday night it was the turn of Nile Rodgers & Chic, Sophie Ellis-Bextor and indie pop band Deco who were tasked with entertaining a packed crowd.

Five piece band Deco have become one of the UK’s most intriguing pop acts to make an appearance in recent years. Finding themselves somewhere firmly in the middle of indie and pop, they know what they are about and they are not apprehensive to express it. Delivering some songs from their upcoming debut album due for release in September, they included some classic 80’s saxophone and led by the charismatic front man Max Kendall, they undoubtedly enjoyed ripping through their up tempo pop gems such as Photograph and Nice Car.

Deco’s energy was uplifting and a whirlwind of catchy lyrics, with infectious riffs and endless playable sounds that got the crowd jumping around. They are definitely a young band worth keeping an eye on.

With a hugely admirable career of over twenty years long, club diva Sophie Ellis-Bextor had brought some much needed musical respite throughout lockdown with her weekly Kitchen Disco sessions from her kitchen. On Friday her long perfected brand of cheery warmth went down really well with the crowd, most of whom were attired in sequins and disco inspired outfits to pay homage to her.

Opening with Alcazar’s Crying At The Discotheque, she immediately had the crowd in the palm of her hand. The Sherwood Pine’s crowd ate up her infectious happy go lucky demeanour and she kicked up a storm as she strutted across the stage and twirled in time to an assortment of disco tunes and a few key covers such as a great version of Cher’s Take Me Home.

Hypnotised saw her dancing across the stage with pure abandonment, before she delivered a medley that started with Lady (Hear Me Tonight) that led into the still awesome Groovejet (If This Ain’t Love) which segued into Can’t Fight This Feeling and was topped off with a killer version of Gimmie! Gimmie! Gimmie! (A Man After Midnight).

And with Nile Rodgers standing at the side of the stage with a huge smile on his face, foot tapping along to a cover of Madonna’s Like A Prayer which had been another Kitchen Disco favourite, she received his seal of approval. Always charming and fun there is nothing to dislike about Sophie Ellis-Bextor, who proved to be the perfect support act getting an already appreciative crowd ready for the headliners before she finished with the pop brilliance of Murder On The Dance Floor which had everyone dancing along.

Nile Rodgers & Chic were the undisputed kings of disco in the late 70’s with their deceptively simple floor fliers that packed the dance floors in clubs across the land, and as the 71 year old Rodgers walked on to the stage ahead of his very talented band, it was immediately clear that he has lost none of his enthusiasm for his craft.

Telling the crowd that he was going to deliver a short story of his life in songs, he was a shameless name dropper as he reminded the crowd of his numerous music awards. Opening with the funky disco Le Freak which was followed up with Everybody Dance, both which had the crowd on their feet where they stayed for the whole of the evening.

The formula of his set was very simple; surrounding himself with extremely talented musicians. Bassist Jerry Barnes was very impressive whilst drummer Ralph Rolle, saxophonist Brandon Wright, trumpeter Steve Janowski, keyboard players Richard Hilton and Russell Graham, along with singers Kimberly Davis and Audrey Martells completed an impressive line-up. But the real star of the show was Rodgers himself as he strutted around the stage delivering first class musicianship.

The hits just kept coming as they launched into Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah) which had the crowd singing along as did the sublime I Want Your Love. Mid set included a number of covers that began with Diana Ross’ I’m Coming Out that saw Martells vocals soar around the forest as did crowd pleaser Upside Down.

It is well known that Rodgers wrote and produced songs for Sister Sledge and it would have been remiss of him to not to include some of their songs in this set list. With Kimberly Davis taking on the vocals for The Greatest Dancer before she was joined by Martells on a powerhouse We Are Family, the energetic Lost In Music before Thinking Of You was dedicated to Bernard Edwards, the co-founder of Chic, who died in 1996.

He had the crowd transfixed with stories about how he had produced albums and singles for the likes of David Bowie, Inxs, Duran Duran and Madonna. Like A Virgin and Material Girl took the crowd on a nostalgic trip before Bowie’s Modern Love showed just how tight a band Rodgers had put together.

There was a delicious version of Daft Punk’s Get Lucky and a very upbeat Lose Yourself To Dance. There was a snatch of the funky Duran Duran’s Notorious before it was back to the Chic numbers, My Feet Keep Dancing, Chic Cheer and My Forbidden Lover.

Rodgers brought to an end a wonderful evening of music with a blistering version of Bowie’s Let’s Dance and his own Good Times that served to remind this Friday night crowd that good music will always be alive and kicking.