2017 Kennedy Center honoree and 4-time Grammy winner Lionel Richie brought his “Hello Hits Tour” to Tampa on Sunday night! It was a diverse crowd of 7,500, from families to fans from the 70’s Commodores days! The Big 80’s played a major part in Lionel’s career, from Golden Globe winner to MTV video star.
He has sold over 90 million records, one of the best-selling artists ever! At 70, he is still on the move. He has a new live album coming out titled “Hello from Las Vegas” which was recorded at the Zappo’s Theater at Planet Hollywood. He has recently been named the Global Ambassador for the Prince’s Trust charity which Prince Charles started in 1976 and helps young people get their lives on track. Time will tell if he signs on for next year’s American Idol judge gig.
Opening number “Running with the Night”, a perfect way to start the show! The crowd is on their feet and cheering! Moving to the piano, Lionel combines the Commodores 1977 #1 hit “Easy” with his solo 1983 No. 1 hit “My Love” for a light, breezy feeling like Sunday morning. 1984’s “Penny Lover” turns the stage into a street scene of bars and neon flashing across the screen. From the Can’t Slow Down album, “Stuck on You” brings a bit of a country flavor and Richie actually hit the country charts in 1984 at #24 with the song. That high energy tune, “Dancing on the Ceiling”, had things in full swing. Mad respect paid to the Commodores songs by Richie and his band. “Three Times a Lady” showed couples slow dancing on the big screen to the audience clapping and sighing for them. Richie engages with the audience frequently telling stories or calling out individuals who have caught his eye for one reason or another. A woman in the audience was doing the splits, which was caught by the cameraman. At first you weren’t sure whether she was part of the show, but Lionel was as surprised as the rest of the crowd by her athleticism.
“Endless Love” is the story of Richie asking Diana Ross, who sang on the original 1981 duet, to join him onstage anywhere to sing it and her answer has been a resounding, “No” for over 35 years! Richie introduces her and asks the ladies in the audience to sing her part. An amusing, smart way to carry off the song without a duet partner since Lionel’s band is all male. His band is an energetic bunch, Ben Mauro on lead guitar, Dino Soldo on harmonica and saxophone, Oscar Seaton on drums, Ethan Farmer on bass and producer Chuckii Booker on keyboards. Did you know that Lionel originally played saxophone for the Commodores? You can see it for yourself on a video of the Commodores “Brickhouse” on YouTube. Speaking of “Brickhouse”, this production had everyone dancing it up with a smile! The words screaming across the screen, the thunderous beat segued into “Fire” complete with fire onstage to get the point across!
Settling back down to the piano for what Richie says is the song everyone wants to sing all over the world, “Hello”, is a sing-along and “Say You, Say Me” from the 1985 film “White Knights” is another crowd pleaser. Richie stands to take a bow and then says he is going to do a song that he wrote with Michael Jackson. For this writer, singing along to “We Are the World” was a goosebump moment from a different time and place, yet its lyrics are still as relevant in our world today.
A Lionel Richie show would not be complete without that party anthem, “All Night Long” closing the show! The audience was still singing and dancing in the hallways and outside the arena, always leave them wanting more ….
Photos by Vicky Sullivan / The Sarasota Post