They should give the sound system and the between-sets song list equal billing at Dimensions Unlimited concerts. In tandem, they cover the offensively long breaks that occur at events like Thursday night's Duff I concert at the Capital Centre. Four groups were featured -- out of billing order -- and taped music must have geen equal.

Nick Ashford and Valerie Simpson, who went on second, were the nominal headliners, but the show belonged to Chic. Chic is a producer's pure vision. Guitarist Nile Rodgers and bassit Bernard Edwards have managed that rare pop commodity -- a readily indentifiable yet thoroughly unique sound that has a powerful impact, particularly when played at high decibels.

That this aural excitement has moved from its intimate disco breeding ground to huge arenas like the Capital Centre is extremely rare. Chic sounds like it's been playing for the multitudes for years. When the base and drum -- which consistently overshadowed even the two female vocalist -- pounded out "Lie Freak" or "I Want Your Love," the 12,000 dancers reached new heights. They were oobviously inspired.

That was not the case with Ashford & Simpson, who have never sounded worse than Thursday night. Their songwriting skills remain sharp but their performance skills have deteriorated through self-indulgent theatrical overkill.

The second phase of the Capitol Centre Duff concert might better have been retitled Muff. On Friday night, there was no Chic to validate other bands' shortcomings. Friday was more of a pure party night, and muffed sufficiently so that the interval music was actually far more attractive than the star performers Skyyy, Raydio and Rick James.

George Clinton of Parliament/Funkadelic fathered the monster called Funkenstein. Folks like Rick James represents a shoddy, utterly derivative and tasteless progeny that is the moral equivalent of B-films. Their brand of funk is repetitive ad nauseam, childlessly formulaic, and without social value -- you know, all the evils usually atributed to televison.

It all comes back to Chic. They brought an elegance, humor and musical substance Thursday night that was missing last night. Sure, people danced. But where's the art? It stood apart, with Chic.