Last night, as I regarded my ticket for the Lionel Richie concert which held the terrible news that Gold FM and Mix 101.1 were bringing him to me, I was also horrified to learn that Guy Sebastian would be the supporting act and I knew what it was to be old.
When we arrived about 30 minutes into Sebastian’s set, the place was almost full. And who was this crowd, you might be wondering. Well, I again felt young, let’s just leave it at that. Ok, let’s not. They were the sort of people who showed up to see Guy Sebastian on time, not just because they quite like listening to him on Mix 101.1 but also because they approve of punctuality. They were the sort of people who, when the camera panned onto them later, were not necessarily going to wave because that was a little undignified. They were the sort of people who bought slushie cocktails in glowing plastic martini glasses and didn’t feel this interfered with their masculinity. They were the sort of people who, when Guy Sebastian rocked out his hit, ‘Who’s that girl?’ Went. Off.
And I thought to myself, as I looked at these people, ready to mock, “Am I attending this concert ironically? Do I have any right to look down at a concert goer who is clapping unrhythmically to someone who at 29 has his own retrospective album and has done a duet with awesome US performer, Eve (even if one suspects that it was the sort of duet where she maybe stayed in LA and he stayed here and then someone mixed it)?” And I had to answer, “No. No I don’t.” These concert goers were loving themselves sick and good luck to them.
There is a point in most concerts at which one marvels at the sheer effort that has been put into the concert and the energy with which the performer is imbuing it. When I saw Beyoncé at the same venue, she worked that room like a newborn works milk. She was really trying. In a good way. She brought her best game. She put lots of effort into the high notes. Similarly, Guy Sebastian thanked the crowd and you could tell he really practised. He really, really wanted to be there and you know what, he pretty much earned it.
You don’t have that moment with Lionel Richie because the man just makes it look so effortless. When he belts out some long note in Hello for 30 seconds*, he doesnt’ even break a sweat. He may as well be reading the paper or changing the TV channel for how hard it all looks. But he combines this effortlessness with being really, really good at what he does and being an amazing showman.
The man is a straight up, no holds barred star.
He gets out there with no dancers, no pyrotechnics, no dresses made of meat, and only one costume change (substituting a silk black shirt for a slightly more matt fabric shirt at around the half way point) and he rules that concert venue like a king.
I have seen this phenomenon before at concerts for Elton John and Billy Joel (one was a long time ago and one was a comp but whatever, I’m not embarrassed) and it is this: these people have been doing this for so long that they’re not doing it for your approval, they’re not doing it because they need the money; they’re just doing it because they love it. And because they really can.
Lionel Richie held the Rod Laver in the palm of his hand for nearly two hours and we were grateful.
Yes there were highlights:
– an opening which featured a mashup of Hello and Everybody Dance Now;
– Lionel playing air guitar;
– Lionel reflecting while tinkling the ivories (flawlessly) that he wished he still had his fro;
– Lionel talking about how many people claim he was the reason why they got together but then taking the piss out of himself by admitting most of them are now broken up;
– the inclusion of the opening riffs of Van Halen’s Jump in the middle of Dancing on the Ceiling;
– my recent knowledge that he donated to Obama.
But the biggest highlight is just the mere existence of this 61 year old man, who puts most people currently on the music stage to shame and rocks the song, Brick House harder than most 18 year olds can rock whatever it is that young people listen to these days.
* May have felt longer than it actually was.