I signed up to review Lionel Richie because a friend of mine had seen him live and told me he actually danced on the ceiling, which was a feat I had to see for myself. Arriving at the LG Arena, I feel slightly out of place but with fabulous tickets; beer in hand, I sense this could be a fun night. Luckily, there is no support for tonight’s show as I probably would have missed it, because it has taken forever to get from the car park to the arena let alone purchase a drink.
Just seconds after the lights go down, Lionel walks on stage in an unassuming manner to the shock of most of the audience, who were expecting to tempt the artist out with their cheers. However, once on stage, he runs from side to side encouraging the audience to applaud and be upstanding, posing politely for the photographers. Lionel sits down at the piano and launches into Easy, which is a classic in everyone’s vocabulary, his vocals and playing are fantastic; tonight is looking set to be a treat. At the end of the track, his band are revealed, a collective of five incredibly competent musicians, who then continue with All Around the World and Just Go, his new track featuring Akon. The stage is lacking any fuss, there are screens at the back and overhead that are showing simple visuals when the cameras are not on Lionel or the audience; this ensures you keep your eye on the star of the show, Mr Richie.
The set proceeds with Penny Lover and Just For You, before Lionel announces that tonight The Drifters are in the audience, but rather than have them on stage to perform they get the pleasure of watching him. And the next track is pure pleasure, Stuck On You. The audience are on their feet, singing at the top of their voices and relishing every minute. Continuing with Tender Heart, Angel and Ballerina Girl, Richie’s vocals maintain their high standard; however, my mind starts to wonder , thinking about Lionel’s adventures in the Top Gear Liana, as the songs are a little too “middle of the road” for my liking. The pace increases with the faster track Running with the Night, where the guitarist, who looks and plays more like a member of Def Leppard, came into his own, resulting in a vast amount of unnecessary but amusing rock poses. Back to the classic of Say You, Say Me, before Richie sits down to the piano to play three numbers including Hello. Probably one of his most famous tracks, Hello would have been perfect had it been played solely on the piano, regrettably there is an addition of some 80’s electro backing, but yet no clay! Wandering Stranger leads into a brief costume change and a selection of Commodores tracks, Lady (You Bring Me Up) and Brick House, which are as funky as hell, followed by Three Times a Lady and Sail On.
The last track of the main show is Dancing On The Ceiling, and the arena erupts. You cannot help but dance to this track, and from the actions of Richie and his bass player one big bosomed lady was dancing a little too much, but this added to the fun of the track, including a brief interlude into Van Halen’s Jump. All too soon the track finishes and Richie leaves the stage to a standing ovation, only to return quickly to perform Endless Love, encouraging all the ladies in the audience to sing Diana’s part. The encore continues with Don’t Stop the Music, My Destiny and Truly, all of which keep the momentum going with the finale being left to All Night Long. Yet again, Richie wallops you with an 80’s classic. Despite his failed efforts at encouraging the audience to salsa, Richie has everyone dancing, singing and clapping.
Lionel Richie is a master of a genre which doesn’t always appeal to me, but then I don’t think he is writing music for me. His vocals and enthusiasm are amazing, he moved across the stage with more vigour than musicians half his age and even though he didn’t actually dance on the ceiling he couldn’t have given more to his audience.
Review – Toni Woodward
Photos – Chris Barber