Guilt-free pop-pleasures dominate triple-header bill
Who: Duran Duran, Nile Rodgers & Chic, Bastille
Where: Scotiabank Arena, Toronto
When: Tue., Sept. 19
Vibe: A retro-futuristic pop celebration
Highlight: Local singer Kiesza’s duet with Simon Le Bon on Come Undone
Rating: NNNN (out of 5)
MELANCHOLY BRITS Bastille are a satisfying opener for early arrivals at Scotiabank Arena Tuesday night for their 7 pm set. They endear themselves to the Canadian audience by repeatedly saying “sorry” for their self-perceived intrusion into the evening’s proceedings and lean into the hockey-arena vibe at one point by pretending to smash a guitar over a stagehand equipped with a Maple Leafs jersey and blue hockey helmet. Crowd favourites are a cover of Snap’s Rhythm Is a Dancer and their own radio hits, Happier and set-closer Pompeii. Although, the latter’s singalong attempts fail to break through to the relatively sparse early audience, despite singer Dan Smith’s best efforts, thrusting his mic stand towards the crowd with “the international signal of please fucking sing along.”
Disco legends and songwriters Nile Rodgers & Chic take the stage just after 8 pm and immediately have the filling crowd up on its feet and dancing to the classic Chic disco songs Le Freak and Everybody Dance. After the Chic portion of the set, Rodgers — dressed sharply in a dusty-rose-coloured suit — explains how he produced each of the songs performed for the rest of the set, before proudly exclaiming, “Enough talk; I’m just gonna play a bunch of my number-one records!”
Later in the set, Rodgers, who is celebrating his 71st birthday, discusses the time he was suffering from his second bout of cancer when he got a call from the guys in Daft Punk to work on Get Lucky, which he credits for being a huge positive impact on his life. While it’s a story he has likely recounted many times on stage, he seems truly choked up on this birthday celebration night, which wraps with a heartfelt rendition of Happy Birthday from the rest of the artists on stage.
Duran Duran played Toronto’s Budweiser Stage for a very sold-out second show of the Future Past world tour in August of 2022. Now, they bookend the album cycle with a return to Toronto’s Scotiabank Arena for the tour’s second-last arena date tonight. Fitting the tour’s title, the band takes the stage beneath vintage ’80s CGI visuals that were a cross between Retrowave and The Lawnmower Man and help set the stage for the retro-futuristic celebration to come. Starting with the down-tempo Night Boat from their 1981 debut album is a curious decision, but things pick up considerably by the third song of the night — Hungry Like the Wolf — with bassist John Taylor prowling around the stage and singer Simon Le Bon howling out the song’s final notes.
Later in the set, after dedicating Ordinary World to the people of Ukraine, Le Bon invites Toronto-based singer Kiesza to the stage to help sing Come Undone in front of her adopted hometown crowd. She shows no signs of the mentioned near-fatal car accident that she suffered a few years ago, spinning and knee-sliding on the stage while belting out a beautiful duet that was a special moment in the show.
A passing mention of their first Toronto show at the El Mocambo ( “Were you there? I was,” quips Le Bon) and a cryptic mention from Le Bon about once having an apartment in the city near High Park gives the show some local flavour. It culminates in a wardrobe change for the encore of Rio — from fluorescent jackets to a blue and white Duran Duran hockey jersey — and flirts dangerously with the arena’s 11 pm curfew. But, with its conclusion, it sends the nostalgic crowd happily dancing into the late-summer Toronto night.