Lionel Richie, CeeLo Green at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 6-11-14 (photos, review)By Ricardo Baca | June 12th, 2014 | 7 comments
As Lionel Richie prowled Red Rocksâ stage on Wednesday evening, the legendary R&B icon wasnât there to dress up older B-sides or introduce his fans to that one country duets album he recorded. No, Wednesday night was all about Richieâs many, many hits — as the showâs name plainly said, âAll the Hits, All Night Long.â
And one of the nightâs most memorable and strange moments didnât come in the form of music but in banter. After an âEasyâ that was as smooth as the crisp, early-summer air filling Red Rocks, Richie looked out to the near-capacity audience and screamed, âHappy Fourth of July, Americaâ — and the crowd went wild.
Shouting âHappy Fourth of Julyâ to 9,500 people on the eleventh of June isnât typically advisable. But Richie had warned us early on that his Red Rocks show was being filmed to air on national television on July 4, and the word inside the amphitheater was that his extravaganza would air on NBC on the national holiday.
So a happy Fourth of July it was, and Richie, who had an intense smile painted on his face all niiiiiight long, moved briskly from hit to hit in a black stage outfit that had him looking like some sort of zippered matador.
Richie barely teased âHelloâ at the beginning of the show when he appeared at center stage in a spotlight, and then he jumped right into an âAll Around the Worldâ that was as much tropicalia as it was funk. Richie wasnât as comfortable during âPenny Lover,â when he seemed to have to remind himself to ask the audience to clap in the break-down at the end.
âRed Rocks, my god,â Richie said. âTonight if you can find a better place to play, this is it.â
He went on to acknowledge the additional cameras and the Fourth of July special: âIf you hear me say throughout the show âHappy Fourth of July,â itâs not because Iâve been drinking.â Then he took on âEasyâ — asking the crowd to sing along with him on âEverybody wants me to be what they want me to beâ — and the only thing missing from this Independence Day celebration was the fireworks.
We could have done without Richieâs âBallerina Girl,â which had him on the piano for the first of multiple times that evening. And then Richie said, âYou canât go to work without singing this song,â before jumping into funked-out âYou Are.â Some in the audience saluted the lite-funk of âYou Areâ by standing up immediately, but the rest of the crowd followed suit when they finally recognized the songâs ubiquitous chorus: âYou are the sun/You are the rain.â
Richie is a charming dude and a strong performer, but it did seem as if he was playing to the TV cameras at times. That said he had some strong one-liners and smart jokes saved for the big evening, too.
When he took on âDancing on the Ceilingâ later in the show, igniting Red Rocks into a massive throwback dance party, he deadpanned, âI havenât seen dancing like that since â84.â Even later, after the emotive Commodores favorite âThree Times a Lady,â he looked to stage left and started telling the audience about how he had invited Diana Ross out for the special night on the Rocks. The crowd excitedly stood up and careened their necks, looking for the R&B divaâs famous hair and glamour, listening for her voice âŚ and then Richie let us down with a joke about how she couldnât make it.
And of course âEndless Loveâ wasnât the same without her.
Richie was particularly animated when he told a story of love, giddiness and then heartbreak that leads to you, the audience member, coming home and finding your album, CD, cassette, eight track âso you could listen to this Lionel Richie song.â His shortened take on âOh Noâ was dead on.
He assumed the same voice immediately after âOh No,â but this story had all of the love and giddiness and none of the heartbreak â and then you, the audience member, come home and find your album, CD, cassette, eight track âso you could listen to this Lionel Richie song.â When he then sang the first words of âStuck on You,â it was a powerful artistic moment.
Well done, Lionel. Way to make the banter work for you.
Yes, the âIâm on my waysâ made for a great singalong. Yes, this monster songwriter still has the voice to fill out his songs. But yes, heâs better at soft rock than soft R&B, much of which sounds unfortunately dated in 2014.
The rest of the night was dedicated to the big guns: Richie mashed-up his Commodores wedding-reception favorite âBrick Houseâ into the Ohio Playersâ âFireâ and later ended up at a breath-taking âHelloâ and a night-defining âAll Night Long.â And as Richie and his band shook their hips to âAll Night Longâ with 9,500 others, there was little question in anybodyâs mind about getting their moneyâs worth.
Seth McConnell is a member of YourHub at The Denver Post and a regular contributor to Reverb.