Lionel Richie's been with us for a very long time, "and I will continue to do this for another hundred years!" he quips.
Tonight is the London leg of a European tour to promote his latest LP, Tuskegee, (named after his birthplace in Alabama) which earned him a nomination for 'Best Country Album' at the American Music Awards.
Richie's club mashup of "All Around the World", "Hello" and the line "Everyday I'm shuffling", a catchphrase from pop single, “Party Rock Anthem” by electronic hip-hop duo LMFAO, which has become a meme in its own right, suggests we can expect old classics with a modern twist.
There’s a tongue-in-cheek, camp irony among the crowd, which composes a stag party, replete with beer and Lionel Richie face masks, and hen parties doing their best Carry On impression. One particularly splendid moment:
Usher: "Shall I show you to your seats madam?"
Hen: (inching her precarious bosom ever-closer to his face "Ooh! show me the way! Enlighten me! Show me the way you sexy beast!"
Flanked by hipster musicians in skinny jeans, Richie seems to be trying to attract the 'youngies' in the crowd. He even brings in trendy guests Pixie Lott and Rebecca Ferguson to perform duets with him. But he clearly favours the older fans, saying with a wry twinkle, “the old models can go all night, but the new models run out of gas fast”.
Richie also mocks his long service in the pop world. “The good news is we’re going to sing as many songs as I can remember. The bad news is I’ve not been remembering a lot of the songs lately.”
Of course, he remembers them all, he’s been singing them for centuries. Yet his vigour and enthusiasm haven’t faded, he sounds just as good today as on my Dad’s old records. The young ones even have trouble keeping up. Lott’s Bambi-like expression jars against Richie’s charismatic ease. She falters on "Ange"”, while Ferguson performs “Endless Love” if not perfectly, then with impressive gusto, and didn't fall too far short of Diana Ross’s high benchmark.
Hits including "Hello", "Say You Say Me", "All Night Long" and "Dancing on the Ceiling" are met with joyful applause from the swaying, sing-along crowd, but 1978 Commodores hit "Three Times a Lady" with its melting lyrics and soulful melody teeters on the heart-warming side of cheesy, and leaves more than a few people with tears in their eyes.