Ever since his ecstatically received set in the Sunday Afternooon Legends Slot at Glastonbury in 2015, Lionel Richie has been on an apparent lap of honour. With more than enough hits for an enjoyable if predictable 90 minutes, the 68-year-old hasn’t needed to release any new music since 2009, and it’s not just gig bookings that keep rolling in – it’s awards too.
He got an Ivor Novello last month, became a rare non-actor to put hand and footprints outside Hollywood’s TCL Chinese Theatre in March, and received a prestigious Kennedy Center Honors Award for his lifetime contribution to American culture last December.
The opening night of the Hampton Court Palace Festival, the first of three shows here for him, felt pretty prestigious too. Impeccably pruned trees lined the grounds of the Tudor pile, beneath which concert-goers, who had already paid £110 each for the cheapest tickets, could also enjoy a £110 champagne picnic for two.
Richie worked up a healthy sweat making them feel like they’d got their money’s worth, high-fiving the security guards, photobombing the phone snaps of the front rows and earning plenty of genuine laughs, especially with his tale of the 275lb male fan who had told him, “Lionel, I’ve made love to you many times.”
He also spiced up the schmaltz of ballads such as Hello, Three Times a Lady and Endless Love by throwing in the Commodores numbers Brick House and Fancy Dancer – weighty disco funk from a different era that made his five-piece backing group feel like a different band.
The glittery baseball jackets kept changing, the hits kept coming and the audience sang as loudly as he did. Ironically, All Night Long (All Night) was the euphoric signal that the night was over, all the favourites present and correct from a consummate crowd pleaser.