It seems only right that the first gig review posted here on TFSR is that of Lionel Richie’s gig in Newcastle at the Metro Radio Arena last night. Having seen the ‘Hello’ singer twice already – in 2009 and 2012 on his ‘Just Go’ and ‘Tuskegee’ tours respectively – I was not too fussed about seeing Richie again on this, his ‘All The Hits All Night Long’ tour. How wrong I was; I was offered a ticket early yesterday morning and simply could not refuse.
Like many soul greats of the seventies and eighties, Richie is riding a new wave of popularity. But, to be fair, he has been selling out arenas around the world since his second solo album ‘Can’t Slow Down’ in 1984; indeed, he hasn’t slowed down since. Richie clearly knows what his audience wants: the hits, the cheese, not rarities nor new material. And he’s more than happy to give it to them.
Saturday night in Newcastle-upon-Tyne is, for those unaware, usually utter carnage with people drinking and cavorting, a fact that Lionel Richie himself knows. The Newcastle crowd were ready from the get-go, and were on their feet from the opening bars of Richie’s 2006 R&B hit ‘All Around The World’ – a brilliant piece of neo-soul that appears to have missed most of this fans. From then on, however, Richie gave the crowd nothing but the hits: ‘Penny Lover’, ‘Running With the Night’, and the Commodores’ smash-hit ‘Easy’ all followed in quick succession. Richie’s long-time six-piece band worked hard to recreate these hits, doing so with ease and much flamboyance.
Perhaps the highlight of the first hour was when Richie took three of these love songs to “educate” the younger members of his audience, or so he claimed. ‘Still‘, ‘Oh No’ and ‘Stuck on You‘ blended together nicely, with the advice from Richie that with heartbreak, “alcohol is not the answer. Maybe in Newcastle alcohol is the answer”. The crowd roared in approval; Richie took a sip from a glass of wine perched on his piano, clearly getting into the spirit of the Toon.
Richie was on stage for nearly two hours, but even then some key songs were missing from the set-list. Whilst songs of his Renaissance album – ‘Angel’ and ‘Don’t Stop The Music’ – are good, they aren’t as good as the Commodores’ ‘Zoom’, nor his solo hit ‘You Are’. That’s the problem with having such a long career: you simply cannot fit all the songs into one set. For the Newcastle crowd, however, they wanted the cheesy hits – bellowing back ‘Say You, Say Me’ to Richie; but when the funk came in the form of ‘Brick House’ and ‘Lady (You Bring Me Up)’, the crowd’s response was somewhat lacklustre. Nonetheless Richie still proved he is more than just a wedding singer; he is capable of being incredibly funky, throwing back to the days of the Commodores – frequently repeating that “you can’t get any better than the Commodores”.
Of course, it was inevitable that he would play ‘Hello’, ‘Dancing on the Ceiling’ and ‘All Night Long’; despite having performed these songs thousands of times, Richie still delivers them with passion that performers half his age struggle to achieve. He is a true icon of popular soul music – a trailblazer who has created some of the most memorable songs of all time. Sometimes icons seem to go through the motions on stage, giving the crowd what they want but rarely putting in the effort to do so. Not with Lionel Richie; he clearly enjoys being on stage, and much like the Godfather of Soul James Brown, will probably continue performing until the inevitable happens. If you get the chance to see Lionel Richie, make the effort to go. You will not be disappointed.