Word association game: You say "Lionel Richie," I draw a blank. I've heard the name before, of course, but I have no idea what kind of songs this guy sings, or what he looks like. He's Nicole Richie's adopted dad, right? So when I heard that he was performing at the Project ALS Benefit, I was neither delighted nor dismayed.
He plays 4 or 5 songs on that blustery night on a soundstage on the Disney lot, even though he insisted that he had prepared to play 2. Dispute being accompanied only by a keyboardist the sound was rich enough to assume that there was an entire band up there if you couldn't see the stage. Surrounded by actors and celebrities, I was sitting in the second row of tables, centerstage.
He opens with "Hello" to high squeals coming from the table in front of me. "Oh, Lionel Richie does this song," I say to myself. I recognized it from the playlist of an easy listening radio station in San Diego, KYXY 96.5FM. So this is Lionel Richie. He has an amazing voice, and the songs sound just like the recording on the radio. He is putting everything into his performance and beads of sweat appear on his forehead immediately.
Next he gets everyone up on their feet and dancing and singing along with "Dancing on the Ceiling"--unfortunately I had never heard this song before, so I was a little lost. He's back on track with "Easy" and he plays one more song before the big finale "All Night Long (All Night)." Everyone is dancing and screaming & energized for the ride home.
The only disconcerting part of the evening is when I noticed that Lionel's shirt was completely transparent under the bright stage lights. This guy is in great shape and he has the body to pull off the see-through look, but I was surprised to notice that he was adjusting a nipple ring on his left nipple. Most piercings gross me out, and nipple rings are pretty bad, but I can't believe he adjusted it onstage!! For the remainder of the performance, I could only focus on the glint of the silver jewelry shining through his see through shirt.
Did I go out & buy a Lionel Richie's new CD when it was all over? No, but I now know who he is, and that's half the battle.