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to Section One | to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, June 6 2014 - Volume 42 Issue 23
Lionel Richie brings all the hits to Seattle
Arts & Entertainment
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Lionel Richie brings all the hits to Seattle

by Albert Rodriguez - SGN A&E Writer

LIONEL RICHIE
W/CEELO GREEN
KEY ARENA
May 30


There are numerous examples of artists who've had successful careers as solo performers and group members. But the list of those who've achieved superstar status as both is considerably shorter.

Lionel Richie has sold over 100 million albums worldwide since 1968, putting him in the elite company of Paul McCartney, Prince, Fleetwood Mac, Bob Dylan and a few others that have accomplished this feat. He's also won two Grammys and an Academy Award, and owns one of the best-selling recordings of all time, 1983's Can't Slow Down.

Gracefully and impressively, Richie isn't slowing down, evidenced by his terrific performance last weekend at Key Arena. It was the second concert on the North American leg of the singer-composer's 'All The Hits All Night Long Tour,' which launched last September with stops in Australia, New Zealand, Japan, The Philippines, Singapore, China, UAE, Indonesia, Mexico, Canada and fifteen U.S. cities.

Richie began the show with 'All Around the World' and 'Penny Lover' dressed in black denims and black/gold Sgt. Pepper's jacket with an open shirt underneath. He appeared healthy and upbeat, but even more striking was how intact his vocals were; they haven't deteriorated in the least. He's never been one to belt out the high notes, and he's never needed to; his voice is effortlessly distinct and soulful.

'I have been gone too long and you look damn good tonight!' exclaimed Richie to cheering fans, who were mostly on their feet during the two hour-plus concert. I really liked how interactive and playful he was with the crowd; you got the feeling he was very present during the performance, that it wasn't just another show on the tour.

'Easy,' a signature Commodores hit from 1977, was filled with a snippet of 'My Love' from Richie's self-titled debut and featured a Jamaican vibe at the end. The pop/R&B icon performed all ballads on a piano that rested on an elevated platform. Slightly disappointing was the backup band, a minimal ensemble of guitarists, drums and percussion with weak supporting vocals. There was no brass section or backup singers, which would've given some of the songs a more authentic sound.

Richie also sliced several favorites in half or thirds, such as a medley that wove together 'Still,' 'Oh No' and 'Stuck on You.' Realistically, this was the only way to squeeze so much material into a single performance. But he sang a lot of the classics in their entirety, such as a spine-tingling version of 'Sail On' in which the audience, including many burly men in beards and hipsters wearing cool threads, sang loudly as if it were their mantra.

A touching moment came when the former Motown artist performed 'Three Times a Lady,' inspired by his father, who expressed his emotions to his mother one day by saying, 'I love you. I want you. I need you.' Around the venue, many men clutched their wives and girlfriends tight, and a daughter-mom pair close to me held hands.

'Dancing on the Ceiling' got everybody on their feet, as an electronic reader board scrolled messages up, down and sideways on a giant screen behind the stage. 'I haven't seen dancing like that since '82,' said Richie, who then pointed to a gentleman in the front row and joked, 'I'm not sure what you were doing' and imitated his moves.

Later, he shook hands with Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson, who was in attendance. 'I'm just glad he doesn't sing,' Richie quipped.

Richie sang 'Endless Love' minus Diana Ross, teasing concertgoers by telling them that he phoned the star and invited her to Seattle to perform with him, leading them to believe she'd be coming out. The singer also threw in a few numbers from his days with The Commodores, including '(Lady) You Bring Me Up' and 'Brick House.' He concluded the main set with 'All Night Long,' as images of a New York skyline flashed on the screen.

Returning for an encore, the music legend pulled out his global charity hit 'We Are the World' and asked everyone to join in. The song was co-written by Michael Jackson and produced by Seattle's own Quincy Jones.

Lionel Richie provided so many trips down memory lane on Friday night with a set list that only touched the surface of his expansive catalog. It wasn't 'all' the hits, but it was enough to get us by until he comes back.

CeeLo Green opened the concert, singing bits and pieces of music that he's written and performed over the years, including 'Fuck You' and the Pussycat Dolls' 'Don't Cha.' The Voice personality blasted out 'Crazy' like a church hymn. Yet, his performance was lackluster, leaning heavily on disco material, such as Rod Stewart's 'Do Ya Think I'm Sexy' and Sister Sledge's 'We Are Family.' It sounded great for a karaoke party, though underwhelming for a major performance.

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