Lionel Richie, Cee-Lo Green Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion July 13, 2014
It's not a stretch to say that many of my peers could have possibly been conceived thanks to Lionel Richie's body of work. The legendary R&B singer's sexy-meets-soulful approach, both with the Commodores in the '60s and '70s and solo since the '80s has provided the soundtrack for lovers everywhere for quite some time.
The incredibly preserved Richie is the performer that you never knew you wanted to see until you were there seeing him, singing along to his hits. And hits there were. Advertised as "All The Hits -- All Night Long," Richie's show didn't let down the crowd in that category, as for a little more than two hours he brought his all to the hot and steamy Woodlands summer night.
To be honest, I didn't really expect much going into the show. I figured on a phoned-in performance from a guy just trying to turn his past into a few more bucks. Thankfully, it was anything but.
Dude's been at it for a while. Since the '70s, when everyone was trying to cash in on the disco and funk era with Donna Summer et al packing clubs throughout the nation, Lionel's Commodores were one of the early favorites. Later in that decade, a move to Motown put them alongside the ever-so-popular Jackson 5, and the group quickly made a name for themselves with songs like the infectious groover "Brick House" and easier-listening tracks "Easy" and "Three Times a Lady." All three were represented during Saturday's performance.
His solo career touched on what he was doing later with the Commodores, but the sound had that distinct '80's feel. "Say You, Say Me" and "Stuck On You" had the ladies swooning, while his audience was expanded with danceable hits like "All Night Long" and "Dancing On the Ceiling."
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While Richie's career somewhat tapered off during the '90s, he was a king during the '70s and '80s, and has the deep catalog to prove it. In fact, the '90s might have almost hurt his career, as his style clashed with the much more aggressive R&B and hip-hop that was popular throughout the decade. Along with acts like Hall & Oates and Barry Manilow, Richie's music gave kids growing up then an impression that the '80s were soft and cheesy.
And while they might have been, they were cheesy in the best type of way. They were the soft-rock that was necessary to balance the punk and New Wave counterculture of the era, music that teachers and accountants listened to. It had to be there.
And now, with a new importance placed on the songs of yesteryear due to the over-commercialization of nostalgia on radio and television, we are putting more appreciation on the craft of songwriting. And Richie is one hell of a songwriter. His lyrics transcend generations, and are still pertinent to young lovers of today.
This was evident looking around the mostly packed Pavilion. Grandparents were there with their children and their children's children. Young couples held hands and swayed during "Hello" and "Endless Love," and older groups heartily danced during "Brick House" and "All Night Long."
To close out the festivities, Lionel gave the crowd one last song. The song that "meant the most to him" out of his catalog, he said. It was "We Are the World," and it had the entirety of CWMP interlocking arms and giving hugs, belting out the familiar four bars of the tune at the top of their lungs.
It truly was a "fiesta, forever," or at least it felt so for the two hours he was onstage. Giving us equal parts dance party and love fest, Richie proved that he is and always will be such a true performer, even at the ripe age of 65. In between songs, he kept us entertained with stories of love and love lost, and fed us his prescription for such with his soothing voice and handily crafted songs. It was certainly a party for the ages.
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So, What About the Opener? While his set was almost an afterthought once Lionel hit the stage, CeeLo Green warmed up the crowd with his infectious brand of funk and R&B. While he's been much busier these days being a television personality with a new reality show as well as being a judge on The Voice, he has a catalog of music that you can't shake a stick at.
While he only offered a few of his hits, including the Gnarls Barkley mega-hit "Crazy" that put him on everyone's radar in the first place and his chart-topping solo success "Fuck You," Cee-Lo and his band of merry pranksters offered an energetic set that touched on as many covers as you'd find at Sherlock's on a Saturday night. Sister Sledge's "We Are Family" met Rod Stewart's "Da Ya Think I'm Sexy?" while sexy saxophone solos came out of his version of The Pussycat Dolls "Don't Cha."
While I could see this band and set list working out for CeeLo in the long run, I'm not sure if opening for Lionel Richie was the smartest move for him. He could've built on his television fame on a mid-sized club tour that would find his fans coming out, rather than Richie's. He's a bit too odd and quirky for Richie's fanbase, particularly Saturday's early arrivals, but he still performed the hell out of his 40 minutes on stage.
By the end, he finally had people on their feet, but you could tell he was frustrated earlier in the set when everyone was seated. Just not the right venue and showcase, but otherwise it was really solid and fun.
Personal Bias: Like I said, I really had no strong expectations heading into this show. I've been a casual fan of his music, but for some reason felt an overwhelming need to see him the past few months. Maybe it was that his set at ACL last year was rained out, but I knew I'd be there as soon as the date was announced.
The Crowd: The most mixed-bag crowd I've seen maybe ever. Lionel is loved by all.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Oh, he's that Gnarls Barkley guy!" said some young lady after CeeLo jumped into "Crazy."
Random Notebook Dump: The Woodlands are sweating to the '80s. Karamu, Fiesta, Forever.
All Around the World Penny Lover Easy / My Love Ballerina Girl You Are Truly Running With the Night Still (Commodores song) Oh No (Commodores song) Stuck on You Dancing on the Ceiling Three Times a Lady (Commodores song) Sail On (Commodores song) Fancy Dancer (Commodores song) Sweet Love (Commodores song) Lady (You Bring Me Up) (Commodores song) Just To Be Close to You Zoom (Commodores song) Endless Love Say You, Say Me Brick House / Fire (Commodores song) Hello All Night Long
We Are the World
ROCKS OFF'S GREATEST HITS
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