Lionel Richie during his concert at the Araneta Coliseum on Saturday
For those who grew up in the 1980s, Lionel Richie was a dominant force in pop and R&B music. He was constantly in the Top 10 of the Billboard 100 throughout the 1980s. In fact by 1985, he has the distinction of writing at least one No. 1 song a year for nine years, which was unmatched by any artist in the Rock Era at that time.
For many of his fans, it is about time Lionel Richie came here to perform. Actually, this was Mr. Richie's second time to perform at the Araneta Coliseum. The Commodores, the '70s funk/soul band which Mr. Richie fronted, performed at the Araneta back in 1978. But of course, this was before his own string of solo hits in the 1980s. This is a definitely a concert that's long overdue. It was not really a full house like it was with Tears for Fears, but the audience turnout was respectable. Throughout the night, we saw celebrities flashed on the big screens, notably Korina Sanchez, Melanie Marquez, and BIR chief Kim Henares.
The concert started about 8:30 pm already. There was no front act. When the lights dimmed, the fans went wild as the driving rhythmic music began to play, and the stage lights began to play around. This was not really how I imagined a Lionel Richie concert to begin. But before I doubted myself, there he was entering the stage amid the cheers of his fans. We first heard his voice sing "Hello, is it me you're looking for?" which drew louder applause, but then he segued to singing an unfamiliar (to me) fast number entitled "Just for You."
After that entrance, he began to sing the hits. He looks pretty good with his distinct visage, as we always knew him. His golden voice is still very much there. First up was his midtempo No. 8 from 1984, "Penny Lover." He followed that up with a slow number from his Commodores days, a No. 4 song in 1977, "Easy." This was an extended version, ending with a reggae beat. Black and white images of girls wearing tutus appeared in the backdrop, signalling that his No. 7 ballad in 1986 "Ballerina Girl" was to be sung. Up next was a No. 4 song from 1982, "You Are."
These songs paved the way for his next song, which got the audience truly excited. This was Richie's first No. 1 solo hit in 1982, "Truly."
Of course, with age (he is now 64 years old), the higher range is already somewhat limited, but he had adjusted accordingly with differences in phrasing and delivery. The saxophone was handily there to disguise other limitations.
This set ended with another upbeat tune, a No. 7 hit from 1983, "Running with the Night." When Mr. Richie wanted the audience to get up and dance, they got up and danced!
For the next three songs, Richie told the audience various stories of relationships, and how we turn to his songs in each situation. His spiels were hilarious, but the songs were all glorious. This began with the second #1 hit for the Commodores, "Still" (1979). Following this was another Commodores ballad, a No. 4 song from 1982, "Oh No." Finally, we hear another solo No. 1 song "Stuck on You" (1984).
Next he sang a big Commodores funk hit "Brick House" (#5, 1977), mixed with "Fire" in a medley. Then he talked about a song inspired by his father's toast to his mother, the first No. 1 hit for the Commodores, "Three Times a Lady."
He joked his dad was still waiting for his cut of the royalties. He then went for a continuous mix of several Commodores hits from "Sail On" (No. 4, 1979) to "Sweet Love" (No. 5, 1976) to "Lady (You Bring Me Up)" (No. 8, 1981).
Mr. Richie then told a story of how he invited Diana Ross to come to Manila to sing their No. 1 duet from 1981, "Endless Love." Of course, Ms. Ross said no. So Richie asked the audience to help him perform the song by singing Diana Ross' lines. Of course, we were only too glad to oblige. I don't think we even needed the lyrics flashed on the screen as we sang with Richie. Unfortunately, this nice little sing-a-along only lasted for one verse and chorus, not the whole song.
Up next, the backdrop turned black and had some dramatic smoke patterns on it. Richie goes on to sing his last No. 1 hit from 1985 "Say You, Say Me." This segued to the most high-energy number of the whole show, his No. 2 hit from 1986, "Dancing on the Ceiling." Richie's seemingly boundless stamina during this song was amazing!
He then tells about a song that it seemed from his touring the whole world loves. He sat down at the piano and began to play and sing "Hello" (No. 1, 1984).
After that ballad, he suddenly changed gears again and performed another upbeat hit, the title of his concert tour, "All Night Long" (No. 1, 1983). He bade the audience goodbye after this spirited number.
The house lights never went back on, and the band members were tarrying on the stage fooling around. The audience sensed that this concert was not yet over, and yelled for more. Mr. Richie came back onstage after a few minutes, this time wearing a white coat. He shared that this next song is the most meaningful song he has written. It was "We Are the World."
There was just one song in his encore; after this, it was truly over.
This review was originally published in the author's blog, "Fred Said."