From “Hello” to “All Night Long” and every song in-between, the Lionel Richie concert at Thompson-Boling Arena in Knoxville was everything I could have hoped for! The only thing I might have changed would have been for him to sing “Lady,” which he actually wrote for Kenny Rogers (my favorite song ever sung by Kenny). 

Before learning that Lionel was going on tour, I told Russ I wanted to see him, even if it meant going to Vegas to see him in his residency out there when it resumes this Fall. Then, when we were visiting his parents in January, his tour dates were announced, and Knoxville was on the list. Russ said, “What the heck,” and agreed to go with me. (If only I could talk him into Cyndi Lauper, who is starting her farewell tour this Fall! I really want to see that one – so if you’re interested in going with me, let me know – I’d love to go!) Back to Lionel Richie, though… 

I had an encounter many years ago in Nassau, in The Bahamas, with a Lionel Richie impersonator, who was singing Richie’s songs on a street corner one evening while we were vacationing there. We saw him on our way back to our hotel at Atlantis after walking to dinner. He had a keyboard and microphone set up, as well as a backing band. Goofy girl and dedicated fan that I am, I started dancing towards him, belting out, “All Night Long.” As I approached, he encouraged me and the next thing I knew, I had the microphone in my hand, knocking the chorus out of the park, a small crowd gathering on the sidewalk. Ever since then, it has been a dream to see the REAL Lionel Richie in concert. (We still refer to the Nassau Lionel Richie impersonator as FAUX Lionel Richie, all these years later, although jamming with him was a real blast!)

In Knoxville, REAL Lionel Richie put on a heck of a show! He changes up some of the rhythms and sequences – I refer to this as “Willie Nelson’ing” the songs, because it makes the beat just enough different that it’s difficult to sing along if you are going by the tried-and-true versions played on the radio when we were younger. He played a ton of Commodores hits, though, and sounded great and all of those, too. I found myself crying every so often – I mean, he is the king of the 80s ballads, as far as I’m concerned. And then he did “We Are the World,” which leaves me in an emotional puddle every time I hear it – even on the 80s cruise. (There’s currently a documentary running on NetFlix about the making of the video and recording of the song that I really need to check out – I just know I will sob the entire time I’m watching it.) On “My Endless Love,” he had the women in the audience sing Diana Ross’ part, taking a big chance, in my opinion, because those notes are not easy notes to hit; all in all, however, the audience did well, and the song still made me cry. (I’m telling you, the older I get, the more easily I cry over anything the least bit nostalgic!)

Earth, Wind, & Fire opened for Richie in stellar fashion. Although only three original members remain, the group performs their hits with classic style and grandeur. Watching them, hearing them, reminded me immensely of witnessing Kool & The Gang on our first 80s Cruise in 2020. I knew I knew a few Earth, Wind, & Fire songs, but was surprised just how many as they belted out hit after hit. Their bass player, one of the three original members, has more funk in his little finger than most bands have in their entire rhythm sections! And the high notes – the original member who plays percussion can hit high notes like nobody’s business – eat your heart out, Sebastian Bach and Air Supply! 

It was indeed a great performance, start to finish, and I highly recommend the show to anyone and everyone. I love bucket list concerts, and this was one of mine, for sure. It meant a long drive back to Bristol after the show ended, but it was okay – we were jamming “All Night Long.”