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Lionel Richie

Lionel Richie Brings a Lovefest to Tampa’s Amalie Arena

| Vicky Sullivan |

It’s a Saturday night show, and people are piling into the Amalie Arena.  It’s a sold-out show for the American Idol judge, singer-songwriter, and entertainer, Lionel Richie.  The last time Mr. Richie played the Amalie was 2017! He has kept busy with the last five seasons of American Idol, a residency at the Wynn Hotel in Las Vegas, and playing the coronation concert for King Charles of England.  He has brought along his longtime friends, that great band of those mighty elements, Earth, Wind & Fire, on this tour.

Performance

Earth, Wind and Fire opened their set with their 1975 hit “Shining Star,” and the audience was ready! It was a night of dancing for this show.  There are three original members in EW&F, Verdine White on bass, Ralph Johnson on drums, and Philip Bailey on vocals.  The stage has a total of nine members, from drums to horns playing those classic tunes from disco to funk to R&B.  Their cover of The Beatles “Got to Get You Into My Life” kicked ass and was a number one for them in 1978! “Sing a Song” and “Let’s Groove Tonight” amazingly transcend time, with the entire arena dancing to the beat.  The big screen graphics were perfect for the music, and the band paid honor to former EW&F members, including band leader the late Maurice White, with a video time capsule of the band from their early days.  “September” is such a joyful, fun song, and Earth, Wind, and Fire brought it with perfection.  A great way to kick off the show!

Lionel Richie made his entrance rising up from the floor in dramatic fashion, surrounded by beams of white light.  Dressed in a white long-tail tux jacket, black shirt & pants, he opened appropriately with his hit “Hello” on the catwalk.  He changed the tempo going right into “Running with the Night,” bringing the band on and a backdrop of city scenes.  Everyone was out of their seats and stayed that way for most of the night except for the occasional ballad.  Lionel moved to piano as he talked to the audience for a two-song medley of his 1977 Commodores hit, “Easy,” and 1981 song “My Love.”   It was a party for “Dancing on the Ceiling”! Lionel led the audience in singing and dancing to the 1986 hit tune, which was also a People’s Choice Award for Favorite Video.

Lionel Richie Tour

It was a lovefest tribute to the Commodores with 10 songs on the setlist.  Lionel announced that Thomas McClary, the original guitarist for the Commodores, was in the house.  He talked about them starting out along with Earth, Wind & Fire back in the day.  “Three Times A Lady,” “Fancy Dancer,” and a big production with graphics, lights, and smoke for everybody’s favorite “Brick House”.  After Lionel telling the audience he had asked Diana Ross to sing one more time with him on “Endless Love” and she would not be doing it tonight, there was a fun sing-along on the Richie/Ross duet with the women in the audience singing the Diana Ross part. After that, Lionel brought us back to the piano at the end of the catwalk, being raised over the audience for the 1979 Commodores beautiful ballad “Still.” Lionel took a few minutes to thank everyone for coming and being part of the music all these years with him.  A goosebump moment for this 80’s freak is hearing “We Are The World” live with everyone singing along and cell phone lights across the arena as Lionel heads backstage to get ready for the encore.

Singer

Of course, Lionel ends the show with that iconic dance song “All Night Long” dressed in a red sequined jacket (homage to Michael Jackson?) with “All Night Long” in multi-color letters on the back.  The band running down the catwalk with Lionel and the sax player on his knees, it is a party you don’t want to end!  Lionel waves goodbye as he leaves the party down through the floor just as he arrived.  Lionel Richie is a true American entertainer!

Vicky Sullivan Photos

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