HE’S spent nearly half a century in showbiz but Lionel Richie still knows how to work
HE’S spent nearly half a century in showbiz but Lionel Richie still knows how to work a crowd.
Fresh from his Glastonbury masterclass and a number one album, the star wowed the crowds on the second night of the Henley Festival last Thursday.
Thousands of people swarmed to the floating stage, forced to wait an extra minute after the festival’s art director Stewart Collins said the show would be delayed after a cancelled train meant some audience members had not yet arrived.
The interlude only served to heighten the anticipation and when Richie emerged, exuding class in his all-black ensemble, the decibel level on the festival lawn reached cacophonous levels.
The Thames was crowded with boats as passengers enjoyed Richie’s rich, deep voice, opening the show with Eighties hit Running With The Night.
How they must have wished they were on dry land, though, as the 66-year-old belied his years with an array of trademark silky smooth dance moves.
Richie was clearly enjoying himself in the Henley sunshine. He told the crowd: “How did it take me so long to find Henley?
“Fabulous crowd, fabulous place and fabulous weather. This is southern California right here — it can’t be Henley!
“I feel like I’m cutting out half my audience because the other half are sat on boats behind me. Can you hear me back there?”
Richie has no shortage of hits but ended his set with crowd favourites Dancing on the Ceiling and Hello. He told the men of the audience: “It’s my job to warm them up and it’s your job to take them home!”
There were screams from the crowd when he succumbed to chants of his name to perform an encore, telling his fans: “If you want to keep going, we will — we’ll keep going All Night Long!”
He then disappeared from the stage to don a white jacket as he brought out the Henley Children’s Choir to accompany him on a rendition of We Are the World, written with Michael Jackson.
Ever the gent, Lionel slipped away during the song, leaving the choir to lap up the adulation of the crowd as the set ended.
A lot has changed in music since Lionel Richie started in the Sixties, but he left the Henley crowd with no doubt that he’s still got it.