Say “Lionel Richie” in virtually any setting, and odds are that those around you will smile. Few artists or acts, today, elicit this type of warm response from just about everyone; but Richie has, and has been doing so for decades. Luckily for those of us, in Las Vegas, we get to witness this spreading of joy, whenever Richie’s residency, Lionel Richie – All the Hits, touches-down in the Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood; as it will for its final leg, this October.
Richie possesses an almost preternatural charm and charisma – due in some part to having been raised in the South – and whether meeting him in person, or witnessing it from the audience; it washes over you, like a kind embrace from an old friend. And, whether as part of The Commodores, writing for Kenny Rogers (“Lady”), in duet with Diana Ross (“Endless Love”), as a Grammy-winning solo artist, winning an Oscar and a Golden Globe (for “Say You, Say Me” from the film White Nights), or as co-writer with Michael Jackson of “We Are the World” – Richie has been a part of our lives, since, well, since my life began (the early ‘70s, in case you were wondering).
Meanwhile, did you know that – in addition to selling over 100 million records (making him one of the best-selling artists of all time) – Richie is one of only two songwriters* to have #1 records for nine consecutive years? Me, either! Another little tidbit – Richie never learned how to read or write music. Chew on that for a white-hot second, why dontcha?
Defying a label (and because singer-songwriter-musician-producer-designer is really too wordy), I prefer to think of Richie as an “Entertainer” (yes, with a capital E); and entertain he does, with gusto! With a stage presence that has more than a little bit of a gospel tinge to it, Richie interacts with his audience like a preacher on Sunday. And his sartorial splendor is noteworthy, if only because he wears everything with a nonchalance that could only be pulled-off by the guy who not only penned “Easy,” but recently rereleased it, as a duet with none other than the Red-Headed Stranger, himself – Mr. Willie Nelson!
But, when all is said and done, it’s that catalogue of songs – not to mention that warm, emotive voice – that keeps the crowds coming back, again and again. There are his songs from his time with The Commodores – easy-listening gems like “Three Times a Lady” and “Sail On” alongside evergreen funk classics like “Lady (You Bring Me Up)” and “Machine Gun”** – not to mention “Brick House,” which (rightly or wrongly) I hold responsible for introducing the Funk to more straight white men than any song before or since.
Then there is the wealth of songwriting treasures he sang, himself (because, let’s face it, for a long stretch of the ‘80s it seemed like the radio was regaling us with another Richie hit, every other week). Songs like “You Are” and “Stuck on You” take you back to a particular time and place; or darker, more haunting numbers like “Running with the Night” and “Hello” that have seeped into the pop-culture vernacular (who can forget that creepy/funny Starburst commercial?) are but a few examples of his skill.
And then there are the huge, megahits. 1986’s good-time jam “Dancing on the Ceiling” is a perfect example; as is the song that (to the best of my knowledge) remains the only Calypso jam to hit the top of multiple charts (including Pop, R&B, and Adult Contemporary), 1984’s “All Night Long (All Night)” – and it’s as delicious to hear now, as it was more than three decades ago.
And it's that timelessness that makes Lionel Richie one of the great ambassadors of contemporary music; one who should be seen and experienced whenever the opportunity presents itself – as it will when Lionel Richie: All the Hits returns to the Zappos Theater at Planet Hollywood, for the final leg of his residency, in August and October!
Lionel Richie: All the Hits
Zappos Theater | Planet Hollywood
Click HERE for info
Get into it!
[EDITOR’S NOTES: *Irving Berlin was the other // **Okay, so "Machine Gun" isn't actually on the setlist; but Mr. Richie - if you're reading this - think about it. The song is a classic!!]