Live music: Lionel Richie - 3Arena, Dublin

4/5

The phrase ‘They don’t make music like that anymore’ is supposed to be used by grumpy auld fellas hearkening back to their youth, when the tunes were so much better than the noise youngsters are listening to today. The the youngsters have to admit the auld fellas have a point, and it’s proven by Lionel Richie, 45 years in the business of pop.

He hasn’t added to his catalogue of hits for a long time — but he doesn’t need to, as this concert shows. For nearly two hours, the hits keep on coming; and more than simply having stood the test of time, there is a freshness to them.

Partly this is down to Richie’s convivial, funny and deprecating presence. The voice, still trademark smooth, has, if anything, more lustre and range. It’s not gruff, but a little bit deeper. And the arrangements, too, breathe new life, with cheesy, 1980s synths replaced by piano, and swelling strings happily absent.

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This is the heart of the gig: Richie at the keyboard, bantering about how we, the fans, look good for our age (ditto Richie, of course), or about educating the younger ones in heartbreak, via his own back catalogue. Songs like ‘Say You, Say Me’, ‘Three Times a Lady’, ‘Still’ and ‘Stuck on You’ have never sounded better than they do here.

Less successful are the bigger arrangements. Early Commodores hits, like ‘Brick House’, bring forays into a funk-by-numbers that is more heavy-handed than the original recordings.

‘Dancing on the Ceiling’ and ‘All Night Long’, thankfully, remain faithful to their original blueprints. They pair up for an infectious finale. The encore is a touching rendition of ‘We are the World’, co-written with Michael Jackson. Richie sings it backed by a montage from the song’s iconic video, as if to underline that, yes, the stars, and the songs, have gotten smaller.

Lionel Richie plays the Marquee in Cork on June 27 Visit our dedicated 'Culture' section for more arts, books, film and TV news, views and reviews


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