#Review: Lionel Richie Delivers Legendary Performance in Lytham Despite Challenges


When you look at the A-list of all-time great, enduring musicians, American singer, songwriter, record producer and television personality, Lionel Richie, must surely be in it. He rose to fame in the early 1970s as the songwriter and the co-lead singer of funky Motown group, The Commodores He was renowned for epic songs like Easy, Sail On, Three Times a Lady and Still with the group before his departure. In 1980, he wrote and produced the US Billboard Hot 100 number one single Lady for Kenny Rogers, later sang on the Band Aid single, wrote and produced the single Endless Love, which he recorded as a duet with Diana Ross, and penned massive hit singles such as You Are, My Love, Dancing On The Ceiling, Say You Say Me, Hello and All Night Long (All Night), as well as the number one single Truly, as part of a wondrously successful solo career. He then co-wrote the 1985 charity single We Are The World with Michael Jackson, which sold over 20 million copies. 

In short, Lionel Richie is a legend. 

So, with all of that incredible history in mind, the anticipation in Lytham for his arrival was electric. You know with Lionel it’s going to be a party, so people were suitably lubed and in great festival spirit, lining the streets surrounding the venue and partying already in nearby pubs to his notorious back-catalogue. Due on at 9:15pm, he eventually landed at 9:40pm to the bemusement of an audience knowing full well that a strict curfew was in place at 11pm. As if that wasn’t enough of an irritant, Lionel’s insistence on making strange growling noises, turning the mic to the crowd for vast chunks of his songs, and generally singing flat as a pancake didn’t inspire confidence that this was going to be a great celebration of his music. Bombastic opener Running with the Night was musically sound but certainly raised eyebrows.

Of course, he justifiably complained of “freezing to death”, and one must have sympathy for him as a cold Irish Sea wind swept across a supposed ‘summer’ festival stage. “They advertised this as a summer tour…” he joked mid-set as the wind engulfed him from the Fylde coast. “If this is summer, I don’t want to even think about winter.” Welcome to the UK, indeed.

The explosion of flames at the rear of the stage during My Destiny was a most welcome sight for Richie, and to be fair to him, as the set progressed, his singing certainly warmed up. What you can’t take away from him is his willingness to stack the set with crowd pleasing classics, and engage with the audience on an individual, personal level. He’s naturally charismatic, and his delivery heart-warming, if not always blow-away special. He also brought an incredible backing band of talented musicians to play alongside him – there’s not a backing track in sight, justifying the stellar instrumentals and song production that took Richie to such dizzying heights.

Lionel is razor sharp, spontaneous and funny. He aired all the hits from his Atlantic Records and Motown days with The Commodores, as well as his much revered piano ballads and swaggering 80s pop bangers. Wrapping up the night with We Are The World and the inevitable All Night Long (All Night), Richie pretty much made up for his late appearance, leaving the largely middle-aged crowd buzzing and ready to hit the town.

Lionel Richie has sold over 100 million records globally, making him one of the world’s best-selling artists of all time. He’s also now 74 years old, and fifty years into a stunning career. I may be quite critical about the diminished quality of his singing, but one thing I cannot take away from the man is the joy that his concerts evidently inspire. It’s true that a tiny, sleepy little place like Lytham won’t forget him passing through in a hurry. 

Photo Credit: Jon Rhodes

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