Lionel Ritchie @ LG Arena, Birmingham – Friday 26th October 2012

The support act for tonight’s performance is Christian singer songwriter, Phillippa Hanna, who takes to the stage armed with just an acoustic guitar. Her act turns out to be very typical and she struggles to hold onto a vast arena’s attention. Acoustic music has to be innovative and passionate for me to be responsive, and this was neither so it washed over me.

Twenty minutes later than the time published by the venue and after a number of Mexican waves, the lights are dimmed and a dance mash-up blares throughout the venue, with the repetition of the infamous line from Hello. The audience’s anticipation and excitement reaches a climax as Lionel appears at the top of an extravagant stage set and launches into All Around the World which demonstrates the capabilities of the elaborate lighting rig.  Everyone is upstanding and dancing along as Lionel covers the length and breadth of the stage, attempting to engage with every available angle of the arena.  Penny Lover reiterates the excellent sound that is produced from the band and the perfect levels gauged to ensure the entire crowd receive the best aural experience.  Richie maybe 63 but his vocals still sound amazing and the energy and enthusiasm he brings to the performance is immeasurable. As he takes a seat at his grand piano to perform Easy, he smooth talks the audience noting how many times he has been to Birmingham (pronounced our way not with the American emphasis on the ham) and how fantastic the fans are, whilst encouraging us to sing the lyrics that he might forget. Needless to say, the majority rise to the challenge as he presents an extended version of the Commodores classic. As the set continues, Richie illustrates how he plays a part in the soundtrack to our lives by discussing love and heartbreak interspersed amongst songs such as Still and Stuck On You, demonstrating his sense of humour and utter confidence on stage.  Dancing on the Ceiling is fully embraced by all including the brief segue into Van Halen’s Jump, and it reminds you what an ability he has for writing upbeat, good feeling records that are embedded firmly in your history.

Richie doesn’t stick to his solo career; he happily plays a number of Commodores tracks such as Brick House, Three Times a Lady and Sail On, all of which fit perfectly into the set.  For the infamous duet with Diana Ross, Endless Love, Richie has the female members of the audience sing along whilst the lyrics are conveniently displayed, after an amusing impression of Diana. The main section of the show finishes with Say You, Say Me, however the blackout is brief (possibly due to the late start) and Lionel returns with Running with the Night and a beautiful version of Hello that holds crowd’s full attention and illustrates Richie’s smooth vocals to the maximum.  All Night Long results in an eruption with each and every member of the audience up and dancing and thoroughly appreciating a joyful Friday evening. Again Lionel leaves the stage momentarily to return, for the final time, with the apt Goodbye. His final departure is to rapturous applause and a standing ovation which is fully deserved. Lionel Richie is a living legend that rightly so, sells out the LG Arena, as his voice has stood the test of time, but it is his fervour and enthusiasm on stage that translates to all who are privileged to witness his performance.  Not only that, the man has a wicked sense of humour which was shown at regular intervals as he mocks the man who brings him water and is evident in his choice of merchandise which is highly amusing; I would describe it but it wouldn’t do the items justice you need to view them for yourselves especially as the festive season is close by.  Lionel Richie is a consummate professional whilst making it apparent that this is more than a job to him, it is a passion.

Review – Toni Woodward

Photos – Chris Barber


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