If you were at Central Coast Stadium last night, count yourself lucky.
ON SONG: Lionel Richie at Central Coast Stadium, Gosford, March 31, 2018. Picture: Lisa Rockman
You and 10,000 other Lionel Richie fans were part of something special. This was no ordinary Saturday night in Gosford.
The moon was full and the sky clear as crowds converged on the stadium from all directions. Nile Rodgers and Chic wasted no time setting the tone for the night –and raising the bar for opening acts. Their energetic set was so infectious it was worth the ticket price alone.
Rodgers is a class act. The record producer, songwriter, musician, composer, arranger and guitarist has worked with the biggest names in the business and is, himself,part of that elite.
“I’ve known Lionel since we were teenagers and playing for $10 a night,” he told the crowd.
“Tonight I’m playing a bunch of my number one records.”
I’m Coming Out, written by Rodgers and bandmate Bernard Edwards for Diana Ross, was on the set list, along with hits likeLike A Virgin (Madonna), Let’s Dance (David Bowie), Le Freak, Good Times, Upside Down, We Are Familyand even 2013’s Get Lucky, which he co-wrote with Daft Punk and Pharrell Williams.
Nile Rodgers and Chic. Picture: Lisa Rockman
“Eight years ago I was diagnosed with an extremely aggressive cancer and my doctors told me to go home and get my affairs in order,” he said.
“They didn’t know what the outcome would be. And I thought, what does this mean to me as a musician? What it meant was for me to do more records, shows and collaborations than I’d ever done before.
“One day I got a phone call from two Frenchmen, Daft Punk, and Pharrell, and we got together and we wrote this song called Get Lucky. And right now I feel like the luckiest man in the world. I stand here, in , cancer free.”
The set really was a celebration of life. People of all ages were on their feet, getting their groove on, having a ball. One man sprinted down to the stage as Chic played their first note of the evening and started disco dancing, oblivious to those around him. It wasn’t long until he was lost in a crowd of people following his lead.
At one point a group of fortunate fans got to dance and sing on stage with Chic.
“We play music to make you move. Music that you can feel in your soul,” Rodgers said. “It’s RnB, dance, disco, soul, groove and so much more.”
Rodgers is an incredible talent, and his band equally so. As for the voices of his back-up singers, wow. They had to be heard to be believed.
Chic were a tough act to follow and in the first two songs Richie didn’t quite hit the mark vocally. His voice was difficult to hear.But then he stepped it up a gear (or his sound crew did) and the audiencewas his.
It is easy to forget how many hit songs Richie has gifted the world.
Hekicked off his set sitting at the piano forEasy, the audience singing to every word. Running With The Night followed, then Penny Lover and Truly.
You Are the Sun, You Are The Rain was glorious (a personal favourite of this reviewer’s since childhood) and Stuck On You had couples in the audience slow dancing and generally being lovey-dovey.
“During themeet and greet earlier a great big tall man put his hand on my shoulder, looked me in the eye and said ‘Lionel, I’ve made love to you many times’. I tell you, I was scared. A lady nearby nodded, telling me he had. I can see all you out there in the audience and I’m telling you, some of you should really get a room,” Richie said.
Brick House picked up the pace again and Richie was dripping with sweat but always had a smile on his face, gazing inapparent wonder at the crowd’s enthusiasm.
Three Times A Lady was followed by Sail On and Sweet Love. The cameras flicked to the crowd regularly, showing people on the big screens dancing and singing. I swear I caught a glimpse of Richie’s daughter Nicole in the front row as thecameras scanned a sea of faces however I might have been mistaken.
Richie asked “the ladies in the audience” to sing the part of Diana Ross in Endless Love and we accommodated. You Are My Destiny fell a little flat but Say You Say Me well and truly hit the mark.
Lionel Richie at Central Coast Stadium. Picture: Lisa Rockman
Classic hit Hellohad everyone in the audience competing with Richie to be heard. It was an amazing singalong. Dancing On The Ceiling had everyone on their feet (“That was unbelievable. I’m surprised no one got hurt. That was some vicious dancing,” Richie said, laughing.)
Dedicating the song to his “good friend” Michael Jackson, we were treated to an emotional and timely rendition of We Are The World, famously sung by the world’s top artists in 1985 to raise money for millions of African people struggling to survive drought and famine. Richie and Jackson actually wrote the song.
The final song was the infectious, not to mention timeless,All Night Long. No one wanted the song to end.
The only downside was the line-up for amenities and a notable lack of officials directing traffic outside the venue. Roads were closed and that didn’t prove a problem –it was the thousands of people blindly using zebra crossings and not letting cars throughthat caused a few tempers to fray.Someone wearing high-vis with a stop sign in hand could have helped alleviate the traffic congestion.
But it was a small price to pay to see two bona fide music legends accompanied byworld-class musicians in action.