Review by Hayley Clark with photography by John Dent

It’s hard to believe 2018 marks 50 years since Lionel Richie burst into the music industry as lead singer of Commodores.

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Selling over 90 million records worldwide, the 68 year old soul and funk icon kicked off his tour in Northampton’s Franklin Gardens and the crowd went wild partying all night long.

Californian Songstress Anastacia opened the all seated crowd with her country rock and soulful sounds. The best time new female artist winner from 2001 had the crowd waving their hands in there as she burst first into onto the stage singing ‘Left Outside Alone’.

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Dressed in skin tight jeans and denim jacket and accompanied by two female dancers Anastacia wowed the mature crowd with a medley of her hit singles ‘Caught In The Middle’, ‘Paid My Dues’ and her rocking take on Bon Jovi’s ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’.

As the arena filled she slowed things down for a singalong of ‘Cowboys And Kisses’ strutting around the stage interacting with the crowd that were on their feet before a couple of fans stole the star’s limelight when ‘Steve’ got down on one knee to propose to his girlfriend.

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Declaring her love for Lionel and practising a Mary Poppins esque English accent Anastacia warmed up the crowd a treat, borrowing their Lionel masks and some amazing vocal highs the refined crowd clapped in a frenzy as smash hit ‘Outta Love’ ended the set.

As the grand piano adorned the centre stage it only meant one thing as it was time for Lionel to kick off his ‘All The Hits’ tour. As his band came onto the stage the crowd eagerly searched for the one man they’d been looking for.

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Running on the stage in white chinos, jumper and a sequinned white bomber jacket, cheers and claps filled the stadium as Lionel took to the mic “Hello Northamptonshire”.

Placing himself at the Piano they looked on in awe as he burst straight into crowd favourite ‘Easy’. Acknowledging his vocals sounded a little out of tune the American superstar told the audience he had a “frog in his throat” and joked he hoped it would be better within a few songs as he sipped from a beaker adorned with his face.

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With his band on fire especially his guitarist who kept the singer rocking with his amazing riffs, the showmanship of Richie shone through. Little one liners and jokes and crazy dad dancing in the energetic 90 minute set that promised and delivered all the hits.

Building his voice and losing the frog fans were treated to an emotional first half set as he picked up the pace. ‘Stuck On You’ and ‘Penny Lover’ leaving the crowd swaying from side to side before hotting things up, getting down and dirty with ‘Brick House’ bringing the funk with Jackie Brown era screen projections.

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Anecdotes and ditties were a plenty, as his wit and charm shone through. When introducing ‘Endless Love’ he remarked for 30 years of playing the song he’d ask Diana Ross to join him on stage and for 30 years she’s decline so the crowd would have to be Diana tonight.

With a glisten in his eye he revealed how a fan had told him he’d made love to Lionel every night, to which he expressed “No I don’t remember, I’m sure you haven’t” until he realised he meant his wife and the music not him, rousing laughter from the fans.

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Highlights included the performances of ‘Destiny’ and ‘Dancing On The Ceiling’ as his powerful vocals came to life with a crowd singalong of ‘Hello’.

As the stage lights shone bright above the stage the 68 year old singer songwriter paid an emotional tribute remembering those who inspired him to up his game when he wrote songs and are no longer here anymore with us.

“Maurice White of Earth Wind and Fire, Natalie Cole, George Michael, Whitney Houston, Prince… and my friend who I wrote this next song with Mr Michael Jackson.”

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The finale of ‘We Are The World’ left the crowd wanting more, waving lighters around the arena and smartphone torches to light up the night. With clips adorning the big screen of his younger days on set with the lost Jackson, this emphasised the fact you need to see your heroes whilst you still can.

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After three costume changes showcasing two different sequin jackets and a satin bomber jacket with his face emblazoned on the back the end was nigh and as the calypso beat and disco lights filled the stadium the crowd danced and sang ‘All Night Long’.

The show-stopping performance left the crowd wanting more as he left the stage to a rousing applause, he’d kept the crowd on their feet from start to finish.

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The ‘All The Hits’ tour has a whirlwind of dates playing Perth on the June 3rd, Hampton Court Gardens on the 9th, Lincoln on the 10th, Shrewsbury on the 13th, Leigh on the 16th, Carlisle on the 17th, Chesterfield on the 21st before ending on the 23rd in Hove, limited tickets are left so don’t miss out on this legend whilst you can.

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