Nile Rodgers knows how to work a crowd. The iconic songwriter-producer-guitarist transformed Jimmy Kimmel Live! into a disco on Tuesday with a boisterous performance of the new Chic single, “I’ll Be There.” Backed by trumpet blasts and a funky rhythm section, Rodgers used his distinctive rhythm guitar to anchor the exuberant song. “I’ll Be There” climaxes with a nimble bass solo and spacey vocoder lines.
The band also dusted off their trademark 1979 single, “Good Times,” for a crazy web performance. After riding out the iconic groove, Rodgers led the band through an out-of-nowhere salsa breakdown and rapped the entire first verse from the Sugarhill Gang’s “Good Times”-sampling “Rapper’s Delight.”
Chic released “I’ll Be There,” a collaboration with house duo the Martinez Brothers, last month. The single – the first taste of It’s About Time, the band’s first album in 23 years – originated from a session for Sister Sledge and was titled after Rodgers discovered the body of Chic co-founder Bernard Edwards, who died in 1996 following one of the band’s shows in Japan. “I said, ‘Now, I can be there for you in death, the way you were there for me in life,'” Rodgers wrote on his website.
The idea for It’s About Time came together in 2010, when the guitarist received a box of tapes containing unfinished Chic material. Only months later, Rodgers learned he had aggressive prostate cancer, a diagnosis that sharpened the album’s theme of “time.”
“I’ve always had a lot to say,” said Rodgers, now cancer-free, in an album documentary premiered by Rolling Stone. “But it’s always worked best when I say it through music. So when I thought about where I was at this point in my life, all I kept thinking about was time.”