Lionel Richie Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion October 12, 2013
With a career that has spanned more than four decades, Lionel Richie has been helping us dance, cry, and love better than the sum of all of our current pop stars combined. The talented singer/songwriter/pianist need only deliver the first few words of each song and his fans will automatically fill in the blanks.
At age 64, the man from Tuskegee, Alabama still shakes, rattles, and rolls with the vigor of a much younger superstar. Mr. Richie hit The Woodlands fresh off his headlining performance on Weekend 1 of the 2013 ACL Music Festival, where I wrote the following:
The former Commodore began his set with "Just For You," off of his tenth studio album, last year's Tuskegee. Sadly, his amigo Billy Currington wasn't available to join his for the duet, but Richie looked youthful and wide-eyed as he smiled wide for his fans.
With a myriad of blue lights, Richie started his set with the same EDM-inspired intro and first track as he did at Zilker Park. The set list proved to be identical to the one in Austin, only with different asides, stories, and commentaries specific to his Houston audience.
"I knew I was gonna have a great time here in Houston, Texas!" proclaimed Richie. "The driver at the airport called me 'Mr. Line-el Richards!' in the most awesome Texan accent." The crowd was impressed at his comedic talents, as Richie played the role of outlandish gospel preacher throughout the night, with hands in the air and amens all around.
After singing "Penny Lover," he jumped on the piano for the beautiful "Easy (Like Sunday Morning)." Hearing more than 7,000 people sing that song was both inspirational and memorable, especially with the island-jam, reggae-beat remix attached to the outro.
He teased the crowd with the possibility of a Diana Ross appearance, and instead prompted the crowd to sing "Endless Love" with him. An impressive giant video screen added a modern touch to the classic songs, perfectly complementing each track with vibrant colors and moving images.
"There are two types of people here with us tonight" said Richie. "There are those who have been with me from the very beginning, and those whose mommy and daddy played my songs all night long!"
His crowd interaction was the best I've ever experienced. He joked with the front-row fans, responded to requests and, taking sips of champagne, toasted the crowd.
The middle of the set included a trio of songs, two from his Commodores days and one from 2004 album Encore: "Still," "Oh No" and "Stuck On You," which proved to be the most interesting part of the night. Richie broke down the meaning and background of each track, and then prompted the crowd to "find your CD, record, cassette, or 8-track" and sing along.
Of course he sang "Hello" with such a heartfelt emotional timbre that it melted the whole Pavilion's collective heartstrings, before swinging into a super-hyper version of "All Night Long" that showcased the immense talent of Richie's backup band. The song ended with a spiced up salsa/merengue version of the track, loud and bright and strong.
The encore also proved to be the same as his show in Austin. "I wrote this song with my beloved friend Michael Jackson," said Richie sorrowfully.
As the notes of "We Are the World" rang out, the crowd gasped and applauded.
Hello... there's the Lionel Richie we were looking for.
Personal Bias: I played "Brickhouse" during my time in the Mighty Falcon Marching Band at Jones High School. Been a fan of Mr. Richie ever since.
Overheard In the Crowd: "Wow baby! I haven't seen you move like that in years!"
The Crowd: Mostly Baby Boomers, with a few youngsters wearing "Hello... Is It Me You're Looking For?" T-shirts scattered around the venue.
Random Notebook Dump: Saturday, I witnessed the most despicable scene that I've ever encountered at a concert. A group of younger fans (douchebag thousand-aires, for certain) were vehemently complaining to security about a fun-loving older couple sitting in front of them, who were so moved by Lionel's performance they refused to sit down. Instead they danced the night away, much to the chagrin of the grinches behind them. After almost 30 minutes of increasing complaints, a security supervisor finally agreed to move the group up into a row closer to the stage.
Having gotten their way, the brat pack pranced in victory, flicking off the older couple and blowing raspberries in their general direction. If I had not paid $12 for my drink, I would have thrown it at them. Pricks!
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