Saturday July 6, 2019
Part 1 (Lionel Richie). See Part 2 (Stevie Wonder).
I arrive at Hyde Park about halfway through today’s stream of concerts. I catch some of Corinne Bailey Ray’s gig and Lianne La Havas. But I have other things on my mind, finding a spot. A lot of people are sitting and standing on the lawn, half watching the stage, half eating picnics, having drinks. I sit behind a couple. The woman gets up to leave and while she’s gone two guys come and sit down close to where she’d be sitting. The guy, presumably her boyfriend, gets angry at them telling them to leave. But they insist on staying, it’s not like they’re sitting in her spot, just nearby. The guy (French, Spanish?) is absolutely furious and it makes me wonder if he’s ever been to a concert before. Does he realise that this lawn will be filled with people very soon and we’re all here to watch a concert? The girlfriend comes back and there’s still space for her. She doesn’t seem bothered but the boyfriend, huffing and sulking, moves a bit back, meaning that he suddenly sits as close to me as he’s accusing the ‘intruders’ of sitting to him. While I don’t mind sitting this close to someone, I do mind sitting this close to HIM, so I move in front of the couple instead. Shouldn’t have done that, because now he starts heckling me about sitting too close. He didn’t even notice me when I was sitting just as close behind him. I don’t move. I try to explain to him this is a concert and we’re all allowed to be here but he doesn’t seem to understand the concept of going to a concert – I think maybe he believes this is a picnic at home in his own garden. In the end I move a bit forward just to get me some peace. Funnily enough, soon more people arrive and the boyfriend and girlfriend stand up and move closer to where I’m standing and move in front of me. Everyone stand close now – I wonder if he’s going to complain about that too. Luckily I don’t have time to think anymore about that, because now the second-to-Stevie-Wonder-headliner of the day, Lionel Richie, takes to the stage.
Lionel Richie is pure energy right from the start. In contrast to Stevie Wonder, he’s an ultimate showman, which sometimes hides the fact that he’s also a songwriter, an artist. But no doubt he knows his stuff, and it’s impressive how good he is at getting the audience excited. The art of getting a crowd excited is of course partly due to the willingness of said crowd getting involved. But if you’re as personable and intent on connecting with the audience as Richie is, it’s hard to imagine how he wouldn’t have the crowd eating out of the palm of his hand.
Of course his vocals are impeccable, of the non-autotune-autocorrect-but-absolutely-real kind. He’s one of the old-schoolers who doesn’t need to resort to fakery. I don’t own any Lionel Richie records, yet every song seems familiar. The second song is a Commodores song, Easy, which I actually heard as a cover by Faith No More before I heard the original.
Lionel Richie must be aware he’s great at what he does musically, but he also fancies himself as a bit of a stand up comedian, and I have no doubt if he put all his energy into creating a set of jokes, he’d excel at that too. He’s very funny and his comedy-timing is spot on. Before the song Endless Love, he builds up the anticipation of the crowd that Diana Ross could perhaps join him for this duet. ‘For the last 35 years I’ve invited Diana Ross to join me, also on this stage tonight. And for 35 years she’s told me, no’.
I forgot he co-wrote We Are the World, which might be the tackiest moment of the set. Sure the message of the song is well-intended but a little bit too corny for my ears. Yet, the song is a home run with the crowd and you can’t help but join in and sing along, after all, ‘we are the world’ indeed.
As Richie leaves the stage after the encore, All Night Long, I’m wondering how Stevie Wonder will live up to that amount of audience-participation. Sure, he has the songs, the skills, the voice and all the rest of it. But the showmanship-award definitely goes to Lionel Richie and I am slightly curious whether his personable performance will be difficult for Wonder to live up to.
Lionel Richie setlist
1. Running With the Night
2. Easy (Commodores song)
3. Penny Lover
4. You Are
5. Stuck On You
6. Brick House / Fire (Commodores song)
7. Three Times a Lady (Commodores song)
8. Sail On (Commodores song)
9. Lady (You Bring Me Up) (Commodores song)
10. Endless Love (Diana Ross & Lionel Richie cover)
12. My Destiny
13. Dancing On the Ceiling
15. Say You, Say Me
16. We Are the World (USA for Africa cover)
17. All Night Long (All Night)