AMERICAN legend Lionel Richie played a packed out Manchester Arena on Tuesday (June 28) for the first of two nights in the city. Quays News entertainment reporter Misha Solanki was there to witness his charm…

Manchester Arena is a venue that can make even the biggest star feel small, however support act Corinne Bailey Rae had the ability to make it feel as if we were just sat in a local coffee shop watching her.

She came on to the stage wearing a jumpsuit that looked like it was made from someone’s left over curtain material. Her band were as dressed down as she was, and they gave off a very chilled vibe which instantly relaxes a crowd.

This is the first time in six years that Bailey Rae has released new music but her relaxed attitude when talking and performing to the crowd made it seem like she has never been away.

As most of the songs she was performing came from her latest album, she had to explain what each song was called and what it was about, but since a lot of her material was unheard of by the audience, no one seemed to be paying a huge amount of attention to her set.

Towards the end of her 30-minute set, after playing ‘Stop Where You Are’ and ‘Walk On’ from her new album ‘The Heart Speaks in Whispers’, the whole mood within the audience changed as she said with her strong Leeds accent: “I think you guys will know this one so sing along!”

And as soon as the intro to ‘Put Your Records On’ started, everyone’s attention went straight to the stage and the whole arena was singing and swaying along.

The Skies Will Break’ was a perfect song to end her set; it was a lot more upbeat compared to the previous songs and the big musical solos finally allowed her to move freely around the stage, dancing around the band with her tambourine rather than just standing at the front of the stage with her microphone.

Bailey Rae brought a freshness to the Arena that many simple are not able to, but it was clear that playing a recently released record wasn’t the best idea for the 37-year-old as it didn’t seem to engage the audience enough to consistently hold their attention.

Just 45 minutes after Corinne Bailey Rae had left the stage and the sets had been changed over came the moment that everyone was waiting for: Lionel Richie.

He walked out extremely causally with his band to raucous applause and cheering, with the whole arena on their feet, a standing ovation before he had even started.

He began with ‘Running with the Night’ and from this first performance it was evident what kind of show this was going to be.

He didn’t address the crowd until the end of his second song in which he told the crowd “I keep forgetting how strong Manchester is!”

Richie seemed to have the perfect balance of seamlessly blending songs together and interacting with the crowd. He had picked out a 90-year-old woman who was stood dancing in the front few rows and referred to her as his “dancer” and how he wanted “what ever vitamins that she’s taking.”

As the show went on and Richie worked his way through his set list, the amount of effort that the American icon was putting in to ensure a memorable show was clear.

He was constantly walking across the stage, paying attention to not only the crowd that was dead ahead of him, but the audience that were sat on the sides as well.

It came as no surprise, given the tour is called ‘All The Hits’ that he went on to perform all his major classics. Not only did he sing his own tracks, he also included a few Commodore songs such as ‘Brick House’ and ‘Three Times a Lady.’

As the final few songs approached the overall theme seemed to shift.

Richie had sang his ballads and gave all the couples in the crowd their moment but now the songs were more upbeat and the concert seemed to turn into a giant party.

Dancing On the Ceiling’ had people up on their chairs waving their arms around, and he seemed to be loving it just as much on stage with his band.

However, it was no real surprise he wanted to end with ‘Hello’; it let Richie sit back down at his piano and take in the magnitude of Manchester Arena.

There were many times in the concert in which he showed his appreciation to the crowd and this gave him another opportunity to do so. Once he had finished the song, he swiftly got up, bid the crowd goodbye and walked off the stage.

His farewell seemed to leave the crowd begging for an encore and as he walked back out the audience gave him possibly the loudest applause and cheers I have ever witnessed.

Of course he wasn’t to leave the crowd with that anti-climatic goodbye and once he was back on the stage he went on to say, “fine if you guys want to stay here all night long we might as well do ‘All Night Long‘!”

Lionel Richie might be 67-years-old but his is the epitome of what an entertainer should be.

His charm and humour oozed out to the audience whenever he addressed them and the way he was able to transition from love songs to more upbeat numbers was flawless.

This show was a once in a lifetime experience and his tour is something that is not to be missed.

By Misha Solanki

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