Review: Lionel Richie and Chic at Qudos Bank Arena, Sydney, 29 March 2018
“This show is called ‘All The Hits’, so we’re going to play you all the hits, all night long…”
Lionel Richie‘s stage antics were firmly tongue-in-cheek, acknowledging that the audience just wanted to see him perform his greatest hits on this evening of R&B, soul and funk.
The night opened with Chic and Nile Rodgers, who were possibly the most overqualified support act in the history of live performances. They were an absolute force to be reckoned with, grooving through hits like ‘I’m Coming Out’, ‘I Want Your Love’, and a twelve minute medley of #1’s that Rodgers has written or produced for other artists over the years.
Each of the nine performing members showed off their chops in funky bass solos, searing saxophone licks and synchronized dance moves, as well as an incredible display from singer Kimberly Davis, who belted out some of the most impressive soul vocals the audience will likely hear in their lifetime
Sadly, the energy of the audience didn’t match what Chic were providing. Rodgers pulled every move in the book, egging the crowd to get up from their seats and dance, clap and sing along. It wasn’t until the drummer took the mic and spent a good two minutes hyping the crowd that he finally got them to loosen up with Bowie’s ‘Let’s Dance’, followed by disco staples ‘Le Freak’ and ‘Good Times’.
What made things more awkward was the surprisingly overbearing security at Qudos Bank Arena, who created an austere atmosphere that was really at odds with the care free, happy vibes Chic were radiating.
That said, all reservations from the audience flew out the door when Lionel Richie hit the stage. The whole crowd jumped out of their seats screaming, a display similar to that of the fanatical Beatles audiences at their peak. Richie soaked all of it up, parading around the stage in a dazzling red-sequined blazer, riling up a crowd already itching to hear him sing.
He sat down at a grand piano, launching into an effortless rendition of ‘Easy’, and wasted no time in powering through a set was packed to the brim with a mix of Commodore‘s songs and his solo material.
While the set leaned to slower material like ‘Three Times A Lady’ and ‘Sail On’, Richie was able to keep the pace with funky tunes in ‘Brick House’ and ‘Dancing On The Ceiling’. The crowd’s energy was surprisingly high, especially considering the lukewarm response that Chic got to much more funky and danceable material.
It was hard to fault Richie’s set technically, but the show did carry an air of self-indulgence and occasional moments of cringe. The pinnacle of this was Richie’s heartfelt rendition of ‘We Are The World’, which had visual displays of Richie writing and recording the song with Michael Jackson. While touching that Richie was honouring Jackson’s legacy, it went too far, with 20ft high visuals of karaoke style lyrics that felt a bit contrived.
The show ended on a giant display of Richie’s name, as he revelled in one last ovation from the audience before quickly leaving the stage.
Richie’s set was packed full of cheesiness, and romance, all of which was lapped up by an adoring crowd. While the quality of his songs leaned heavily on their nostalgia value, it was a great performance that reasserted Richie as a fantastic singer and, still, one hell of a showman.