Friday, June 28, 2019

Lionel Richie Unlocks the Fountain of Youth and Soul at Toronto Concert

To say I love Lionel Richie would be a gross understatement. Everything about this man manifests positivity, love, happiness, and good vibes whenever his music plays or whenever you have the honour of attending one of his live shows.

For as long as I can remember, his music has been a part of my life. Born in 1978, I grew up on the sounds of Lionel Richie, in all variations, and have most of his hits etched into my musical memory indefinitely. I have the double CD and piano sheet music book version of his "Anthology" greatest hits album--these are some of my favourite musical possessions.

Performing a string of hits, one after the other, all received enthusiastically from fans, Richie's legendary status was undeniable. As he mentioned in one of his many interactions with the audience, the reason why people laugh out loud or even bawl tears during his performances is because each of his classic songs are tied to specific memories for so many of us. Before singing "Three Times a Lady," for example, he declared that many people in the room either got engaged, got married, or got into other forms of mischief to his song.

That was the case with all of the songs. I can remember watching the music video for "We Are the World" playing on repeat on TV, while vacationing in Jamaica in the mid-80s. I can actually distinctly remember seeing the music video for "Hello" for the first time even though I was only around 5 years old. I remember dancing to "All Night Long" as a child, and I can just feel the 1980s in my bones whenever his music plays.

Lionel as a pianist is where my heart's appreciation truly is. To see him on stage playing the instrument, dancing, jumping, and singing LIVE (which we can't take for granted, these days) is another confirmation that even at the age of 70 (his milestone birthday passed just a little over a week ago on June 20) his fire is still burning as strong as ever, as a musician, an entertainer, and a beloved part of so many of our memories.

I've now seen him live twice (the last time was 2017 with Mariah Carey at the Air Canada Centre), but what stood out to me this time was the amount of dancing that took place! The Budweiser Stage is definitely more conducive to movement than the steep stands of the Scotiabank Arena, so it was a beautiful thing to see fans (the majority of which were 50+) literally jamming All Night Long. Literally.

I watched a gentleman and his wife slow dance and swoon to "Hello" and "Say You, Say Me," and speculated that maybe Lionel Richie created the first dance at their wedding, or the "song" of their relationship. I witnessed another fellow, over 70, take to the aisles when Lionel went into his Commodores hits like "Brick House" and break into some expert level footwork that must have had him tearing up dancefloors back in the 70s. He transformed into someone else, and was the star of our section of the stands. It was wonderful to witness.

While I was there to watch Lionel Richie perform, I was actually most intrigued by the fans around me. At 41, I was still easily one of the youngest attendees there. But it was refreshing to see couples, friends, groups, and music lovers of all races with cans of beer in hands and dressed in their summer best, having an amazing night out under the stars. We were blessed with 20+ degree weather all day yesterday in Toronto, and the weather was absolutely perfect and fitting for the excellent night out.

The singalongs were marvellous, as Richie fans took over most of the show crooning the lyrics to "Endless Love" and "Dancing on the Ceiling," and there wasn't a word missed as they sang along to their favourite songs.

(via Eric Alper)
Every now and then, I would watch Richie's face on the large screen, as he "watched us watching him, watch us" and understood why after all these years he still goes on tour, and still loves to perform the songs that we love. I saw his pride, and as he inhaled the cheers and applause. I watched him smile, and dance, crack jokes, and engage his fans in the experience. He didn't miss a beat, he sounded awesome, he looked great, and I know that it his music that is the key to his vibrancy and longevity. Not only in the music industry, but physically and mentally as well.

Lionel has been a consummate musician for decades. Minor drama, lots of music, and a presence that seems to be welcome in any town, venue, or setting he arrives in. I wondered what it felt like to be HIM. To have written and performed so much great music, and to still be alive and well to enjoy the feedback. Think of how many legends we've lost in music, to drugs, or untimely passing. Think of how lucky Lionel is to be able to still do what he loves, and still share that magic with us, his fans.

Music is probably the single most inspirational force in my life, and just being in the venue, hearing those songs for the millionth time, and being able to sing along and enjoy the festive ambience was a treat to say the least. There is nothing else I'd rather do, and nowhere else I'd rather be than in that exact type of environment.

So thank you to Lionel Richie, yet again, for an amazing concert experience, decades of amazing music, and for reminding me that the keys to life and the secrets to happiness--a youthful spirit, and an eternally hip soul--really is just as simple as surrounding yourself with good music, good vibes, and a brilliant entertainer who knows exactly how to combine all of those forces, sharing them with thousands of supporters around the world for yet another year of his career.

The "Hello" tour continues until mid-September of this year, and I already can't wait until the next tour stops in Toronto!

Written by Stacey Marie Robinson for Kya Publishing's "Urban Toronto Tales" blog.

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