You’ve got to hand it to Lionel Richie. He knows how to bond with his crowd.
Shortly after taking the stage at the outdoor Gexa Energy Pavilion Friday night, he said that he wouldn’t mind if someone in Dallas would turn on the air conditioning. The only better way to fit in with a Texas crowd in July would have been to offer everyone beer and barbecue.
From that moment on -- where he almost literally had them at Hello -- he could do no wrong. Alternating between sitting at his piano and striding across the stage, Richie energetically ran through his catalog in a slick set that wasn’t particularly spontaneous but was a friendly blend of professionalism, nostalgia, and nice-guy sincerity. (Though he did off-the-cuff cleverly riff on one couple down front dressed in sailor outfits. He said he was glad to see The Captain and Tennille back together.)
He and his five-piece band managed to cram 24 songs in just under two hours but they sometimes did it with truncated, medley versions of hits -- the bane of just about every concert headlined by a performer with 40 years worth of career.
But when they did let loose -- as on Lady (Your Bring Me Up), Dancing on the Ceiling, All Night Long, or Brick House smartly mashed up with a bit of Ohio Players’ Skin Tight and Fire -- it made for a pleasantly funky trip into the past. Richie’s voice is still in good shape and -- when compared the photos of his younger self which sometimes filled the screens above and behind him -- he doesn’t appear to have aged much since those hitmaking days.
Cee-Lo Green also tapped into everyone’s memories during his opening 50-minute set even if, as far as many are concerned who may mostly know him from his role on The Voice, he’s a relative newcomer. His performance was larded with enough cover versions -- a bit of We Are Family here, a Do Ya Think I’m Sexy and Pussycat Dolls’ Don’t Cha there -- to make him seem like a glorified wedding singer.
That’s too bad as he has an intriguing enough musical history -- with Goodie Mob, Gnarls Barkley, and solo work -- to put together a show that feels more original and inspired. Not to mention that his female-dominated seven-piece showed they can jam and when they went into the songs he is known for -- the set-closing Crazy and (Forget) You (in which he let the crowd chant the real f-word that replaces “forget”) -- things improved.
Next time, Cee-lo, a little more Gnarls Barkley and a little less Rod Stewart, please and thank you.