Lionel Richie made one thing clear on Friday night at the Fantasy Springs Special Event Center: He didn’t like the weather.
“It’s too hot outside to be moving like this inside!” he told the audience at one point.
Sure, it was a scorcher outside, but that didn’t stop a near-sell-out crowd on Friday night from dancing and clapping along with the former Commodores singer and ’80s R&B hit-maker.
There were ample references to the infamous “Hello” meme that has circulated around the Internet—on homemade T-shirts people were wearing, on the video screen during the show, and even on an officially licensed sweatshirt that could be yours for the low, low price of $80 from the merchandise booth in the lobby.
Make no mistake: Richie remains relevant in the music industry today; his most-recent album, Tuskegee, went platinum and hit No. 1 on the Billboard Top 100 chart in 2012. The crowd was a mixture of people young, old and older.
Before Richie took the stage, the lights went off; thunder sound effects began; and strobe lights flickered as people howled and applauded. With energy like that, one had to expect an epic opening, and that’s exactly what we got: He played “Easy/My Love.” After just the first verse, he stopped the song, stood up from behind the piano, and said, “I need you on this!” When he returned to the piano, the audience sang the lyrics louder than he sang over the sound system.
It was evident from the start that Richie either had a cold, or his vocal chords needed some rest, as he struggled during the first two-thirds of the show. There were times when the guitars and harmonica were louder than he was.
Lionel’s band included a little R&B—and a little ’80s metal. His guitarist let loose and head-banged to some of the solos on the edgier Commodores songs, and the band even channeled Van Halen during the performance of “Dancing on the Ceiling,” playing the riffs to Van Halen’s “Jump” at the end of it.
Richie’s stage banter with the audience fell a little flat after his third complaint about the desert heat and a remark that the crowd “didn’t sound too bad for being from the desert.” There were some entertaining moments, such as when Richie pointed out that there were only five men sitting in the front row (one of whom was Monreaux frontman Giorg Tierez), and he asked one of them sternly, “Why you looking at me like that?” (Tierez later denied looking at Richie funny.)
One very amusing moment came when Richie said that at the meet-and-greet before the show, a big man walked up to him and said, “I’ve made love to your music many times.” Richie laughed and said he told him, “That’s a lie!” He then said the man’s girlfriend or wife replied: “I was there.” Also: Before playing “Brick House,” he told the audience: “Imagine traveling the world and judging ‘Miss Brick House’ competitions in each city.”
The last four songs were the highlight of the show—and his vocals seemed to be just fine as he ended the 80-minute concert with “Hello,” “Say You Say Me,” “We Are the World” and “All Night Long.”