Lionel Richie's All the Hits, All Night Long Tour Ak-Chin Pavilion June 8
Lionel Richie is one of the best-selling artists of all time. He was a member of Motown's The Commodores in the '60s and went on to be a hit machine as a solo artist, with 10-plus albums released over 30 years. He's 64 and still appears to thoroughly enjoy performing. The sheer amount of smiling and laughing Richie can fit into an hour and a half is kind of incredible and contagious (even while he's singing, I mean, come on). His signature move is to face the crowd, place his hands on his hips and throw his head back and laugh. Mix that kind of happiness with a performer who still has quite a bit of soul and grit and a good but maybe dorky sense of humor, and you've got a fine night of entertainment.
"Are we having a fire?" he incredulously asked when he took the stage in all black and a stylized military blazer that was a somewhat ordinary derivative of Michael Jackson or Sgt. Pepper. "I went outside to get some sun and damn near blew up."
About a third of the show was dedicated to songs he wrote with The Commodores. The remaining songs were primarily off his solo work from the '80s and '90s. Though he admitted there's a lot of pressure to remember every word at his shows, it didn't seem to matter much, since most of the audience had basically turned this event into a karaoke night. Richie only seemed to have forgotten the lyrics near the end of "You Are" -- in fairness, he did ask the audience to help him sing that one.
Everyone got up and moving for "Running with the Night." It was a fun number, after which Richie declared he hadn't seen dancing like that since '82 (a year before that song was released) and remarked: "I have no clue what you all were doing."
Afterward, it was time to give those hips a rest, take a seat and get sincere. Richie reiterated to the audience how long they had been together and gone through parallel life experiences: When he was in love, they were in love. When he was out of love, so were his fans. And when they fell back in love, he was right there, too. He then played a three-song series from the piano bench of "love songs" for all the people who have run home to put on a Lionel Richie "album/8-track/cassette/CD/download" to get through the feat of romance. (Note: Every time Richie sat down at his piano, he was handed a drink: red wine, then champagne he wasn't into and finally a glass of white he nearly chugged.)
Things picked up again with "Dancing on the Ceiling," during which Richie and his band jumped (yes, Warped Tour jumped) around the stage -- at one point, the saxophonist was laying on the ground with his legs kicked up over the piano. Richie joked he was selling exercise tapes at the kiosks after the show.
He then played a song "inspired by his mother, written by his father and stolen by him" -- "Three Times a Lady." Noting the doubly enthusiastic audience reaction to Commodores' songs, Richie went into "Sail On," "Fancy Dancer," "Sweet Love," "Lady (You Bring Me Up)" and an explosively beautiful "Just to be Close to You."
Now that the audience was all buttered up and spoiled, Richie briefly teased Diana Ross made a special visit to Phoenix to perform "Endless Love" -- but that she had to run to a barbecue and couldn't make it.
Then, the moment almost everyone began to doubt would come finally did. The lights turned all shades of funky disco and Richie and his band strutted the stage during a raunchy rendition of "Brick House."
At this point, Richie has lost about 20 pounds of water weight from sweating, though he did it quite gracefully -- a difficult feat even for those of us accustomed to Arizona heat. But, it was clearly time to rest with a song he said has always been sung word-for-word at all of his shows -- "Hello."
The last song of the set was the tour's namesake "All Night Long (All Night)." It was a celebratory bit, where Richie awkwardly/fabulously shook his hips like "Julio," "Enrique," "Beyonce" and "Shakira" (all these impersonations looked the same).
The encore was what Richie called the most meaningful song he's ever written (well, co-written by Michael Jackson) -- "We Are the World."
Click to the next page for set list and critic's notebook.
"All Around the World" (Coming Home) "Penny Lover" (Can't Slow Down) "Easy (Like Sunday Morning)" (Commodores, Commodores) "My Love" (Lionel Richie) "Ballerina Girl" (Dancing on the Ceiling) "You Are" (Lionel Richie) "Truly" (Lionel Richie) "Running With the Night" (Can't Slow Down) "Someday" (Time) "Oh No" (Commodores, In the Pocket) "Stuck On You" (Can't Slow Down) "Dancing on the Ceiling" (Dancing on the Ceiling) "Three Times a Lady" (Commodores, Natural High) "Sail On" (Commodores, Midnight Magic) "Fancy Dancer" (Commodores, Hot on the Tracks) "Sweet Love" (Commodores, Moving On) "Lady (You Bring Me Up)" (Commodores, In the Pocket) "Just to be Close to You" (Commodores, Hot on the Tracks) "Endless Love" (Why Do Fools Fall in Love?) "Say You Say Me" (Dancing on the Ceiling) "Brick House" (Commodores, Commodores) "Hello" (Can't Slow Down) "All Night Long (All Night)" (Can't Slow Down)
Encore: "We Are the World"
Critic's Notebook: Last Night: Lionel Richie at Ak-Chin Pavilion Crowd: Lionel Richie said it best: The audience was a mix of old-timer Commodore fans and people who refer to him as "Mr. Richie." Aka: People who still flip their phones around for a selfie and everyone else. Personal Bias: I'm a brick house.
Overheard in the crowd: "I saw him back when..."
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