When an artist with Lionel Richie’s resume comes to town, the fans follow. In what was surely the signature concert this summer at the Portsmouth Pavilion, Richie and his six-piece band thrilled a near-capacity crowd with a run through his hits catalog; he also brought some jokes along the way.
Hitting the stage at 9 p.m. sharp, fans were greeted with a pair of songs off of the 1983 hit album Can’t Slow Down as Richie got things off to an energetic start with “Running with the Night” followed by “Penny Lover.”
Richie then took to the microphone for some jokes. He was perplexed by the pronunciation of Portsmouth, which brought laughs from the audience. A lot of performers use the same stage banter every night in every city, so it was refreshing to see some genuine personality to the stage.
The first Commodores song of the night came next as Richie sat down at the piano for a stirring rendition of “Easy”, complete with a reggae inspired jam in the middle.
Before a beautiful take on “Stuck on You” which featured backing vocals from the crowd, Richie engaged the crowd with more humor; including knowing what part of the country someone is from based on the way they pronounce his first name.
The 68-year-old brought energy the entire evening, especially when he demanded the crowd stand up before “Dancing on a Ceiling.” The 1986 hit from the album of the same name also gave way to a brief tease of the opening keyboard riff from Van Halen’s song “Jump.”
Next up, was another medley of tunes from Richie’s days in the Commodores, “Three Times a Lady”, “Sail On” and “Lady”; which were all crowd favorites.
As Richie prepared to play “Endless Love”, the 1981 duet with Diana Ross, he said he invited Ross to perform the song with him, but she has been avoiding him for decades. So it would be up to the females in attendance to sing Ross’s parts, which they did admirably.
The hits continued with “Say You, Say Me” followed by another Commodores classic, the rollicking and funky “Brickhouse” that brought the crowd back to its feet.
Richie returned to the piano for his staple “Hello” and closed out the set with “We Are the World”, the number one hit he co-wrote with Michael Jackson.
The encore was arguably Richie’s most popular song, “All Night Long.”
While the concert clocked in at a relatively short 90 minutes, it delivered on its billing. It was advertised as “All The Hits”, and that’s what it was —- no filler, just the meat.
It was a top-shelf performer, in great form, giving the fans what they wanted, including some jokes.