Photos: Lionel Richie, CeeLo Green at Red Rocks Amphitheatre (review) - Reverb

Lionel Richie, CeeLo Green at Red Rocks Amphitheatre, 6-11-14 (photos, review)

As Lionel Richie prowled Red Rocks’ stage on Wednesday evening, the legendary R&B icon wasn’t 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 Richie’s many, many hits — as the show’s name plainly said, “All the Hits, All Night Long.”

And one of the night’s most memorable and strange moments didn’t come in the form of music but in banter. After an “Easy” that was as smooth as the crisp, early-summer air filling Red Rocks, Richie looked out to the near-capacity audience and screamed, “Happy Fourth of July, America” — and the crowd went wild.

Shouting “Happy Fourth of July” to 9,500 people on the eleventh of June isn’t 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 “Hello” at the beginning of the show when he appeared at center stage in a spotlight, and then he jumped right into an “All Around the World” that was as much tropicalia as it was funk. Richie wasn’t as comfortable during “Penny Lover,” when he seemed to have to remind himself to ask the audience to clap in the break-down at the end.

“Red Rocks, my god,” Richie said. “Tonight if you can find a better place to play, this is it.”

He went on to acknowledge the additional cameras and the Fourth of July special: “If you hear me say throughout the show ‘Happy Fourth of July,’ it’s not because I’ve been drinking.” Then he took on “Easy” — asking the crowd to sing along with him on “Everybody wants me to be what they want me to be” — and the only thing missing from this Independence Day celebration was the fireworks.

We could have done without Richie’s “Ballerina Girl,” which had him on the piano for the first of multiple times that evening. And then Richie said, “You can’t go to work without singing this song,” before jumping into funked-out “You Are.” Some in the audience saluted the lite-funk of “You Are” by standing up immediately, but the rest of the crowd followed suit when they finally recognized the song’s ubiquitous chorus: “You are the sun/You are the rain.”

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 “Dancing on the Ceiling” later in the show, igniting Red Rocks into a massive throwback dance party, he deadpanned, “I haven’t seen dancing like that since ’84.” Even later, after the emotive Commodores favorite “Three Times a Lady,” 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 diva’s famous hair and glamour, listening for her voice … and then Richie let us down with a joke about how she couldn’t make it.

And of course “Endless Love” wasn’t 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 “so you could listen to this Lionel Richie song.” His shortened take on “Oh No” was dead on.

He assumed the same voice immediately after “Oh No,” but this story had all of the love and giddiness and none of the heartbreak – and then you, the audience member, come home and find your album, CD, cassette, eight track “so you could listen to this Lionel Richie song.” When he then sang the first words of “Stuck on You,” it was a powerful artistic moment.

Well done, Lionel. Way to make the banter work for you.

Yes, the “I’m on my ways” made for a great singalong. Yes, this monster songwriter still has the voice to fill out his songs. But yes, he’s 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 “Brick House” into the Ohio Players’ “Fire” and later ended up at a breath-taking “Hello” and a night-defining “All Night Long.” And as Richie and his band shook their hips to “All Night Long” with 9,500 others, there was little question in anybody’s mind about getting their money’s worth.

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Ricardo Baca is the founder and executive editor of Reverb, the co-founder of The UMS and an award-winning critic and marijuana editor at the Denver Post.

Seth McConnell is a member of YourHub at The Denver Post and a regular contributor to Reverb.

  • Snafunk

    I would say a 85-90% of the crowd stood the entire show.

    • Dr N2O

      Agreed. Been attending shows of all types at Red Rocks for 22 years and my wife and I both felt this was one of the most enthusiastic crowds we have ever seen there. We were pleasantly surprised to see the 40-60 yr old crowd stand for the entire show.

      • Snafunk

        You want to see an enthusiastic crowd, hit Widespread Panic in 2 weeks.

  • Mark Aschan

    it was one of the best shows that ive ever been to… you apparantly had better seats than I did in row 26

  • 2June7Birthdays

    My husband and I attended the show and we can not wait to see it formatted for TV! I had intended on taking tons of pictures and when he said it was being recorded I put my camera away and sang and dance the night away! Loved it! Our first time at Red Rocks we drove in from Chicago for our B-day Vacation. So amazing in Colorado!

  • Sean J

    CeeLo was horrible IMO. Lionel put on the best concert I have ever seen at RedRocks. It is nice to hear a legend play live, enjoy it, and the whole crowd be into it. We stood the whole time and just got lost into the music.

  • moram1

    I have been to alot of concerts in my life and I have to say this was one of the best I’ve been to. The drive from Albuquerque was definitely worth it!