Lionel Richie with special guest Corinne Bailey Rae, performs his All The Hits Tour at the Sheffield Arena on Wednesday 22nd June 2016

Images and Review by Kevin Cooper

Lionel Richie wasn’t on stage all night long last night at the Sheffield Arena; it was more like 90 minutes as he delivered hits from both his days with the Commodores and his hugely successful solo career.

He had promised all the hits and that was exactly what this packed arena got. With a hundred million album sales under his belt, the age defying Richie who celebrated his 67th birthday a few days ago, made sure that this was a party to remember.

Richie’s special guest, Corinne Bailey Rae, promised to be a real treat as she took to the stage with her four piece band. This Grammy award winner with her rich and delicious voice showcased songs from her latest album, The Heart Speaks In Whispers. Opener, Been To The Moon and Stop Where You Are were very well received, whilst she was joined by the whole arena when she performed Put Your Record On, her stand out hit from her eponymous debut album.

Finishing her set with the poignant The Skies Will Break, you could hear the sorrow and resolution of a difficult few years. Corinne Bailey Rae has been out of the limelight far too long, and it was nice to see her back before an appreciative audience. The downside to her set was the appalling sound quality. It was so bad that it was a struggle to make out some of her wonderful lyrics. Falling victim to the support act syndrome, with bad lighting and awful sound, on this performance she deserved better.

But the night belonged to Lionel Richie. After years of relatively unsuccessful releases, the singer unexpectedly hit the big time again in 2012 with Tuskegee, in which he performed duets of his hits with a gallery of country stars. It marked his first number one album on the Billboard Charts in more than 25 years. But this fact was hard to fathom as this crowd became increasingly restless as his entrance became fashionably late.

He garnered cheers before he had even set foot on the empty stage when he sang the opening notes of his hit Hello. That song was delivered later in full, as he ran on stage to start with Running Through The Night. And the party had begun.

Looking and sounding as good as he did a quarter of a century ago, he delivered a high energy set that contained a mixture of his trademark balladry with the funkier songs from his Commodore days.

With the opening song looking as though it would run all-night, he went onto to cement the crowd’s hormonal instincts with such love songs as Penny Lover, Ballerina Girl and Say You Say Me. Mass sing along Easy morphed into a reggae tinged number which delighted this crowd.

With the crowd firmly on their feet, he combined a bunch of Commodore classics together mid show to excellent effect. Such songs as Sail On, Still, Oh No and Lady (You Bring Me Up) were a vivid reminder of that landmark group’s enduring appeal.

Throughout, Richie showed easy rapport with the crowd which was demonstrated with amusing banter. With his warm and easy charm, it wasn’t difficult for the crowd to embrace his stories as they hung on his every word, and when things threatened to get bogged down with his tremendous ballads, he unleashed a high energy number like Dancing On The Ceiling which had the crowd almost in a frenzy of un-coordinated joy.

His young and extremely talented band were afforded numerous solos, including extended electric guitar and saxophone breaks. The classic Brick House was delivered with impressive funkiness which nearly brought the house down, whilst All Night Long was infused with an energetic salsa jam.

For this crowd the night was brought to an end far too early, as they could have danced all night with the legend that is Lionel Richie. He was a consummate showman right to the very end and as he left the stage, the Sheffield Arena continued to buzz.