“SO TELL ME HOW IT’S PRONOUNCED...IS IT ‘LEE’, OR IS IT ‘LEE-HER’?”
Over 10,000 people left Lionel Richie in no doubts as to where he was spending his Saturday night.
And big Lionel left those same 10,000 fans who’d turned up to see him in no doubts as to why he is as close to music royalty as there is.
The idea of Lionel Richie bringing his ‘All The Hits’ tour to Leigh would have seemed pie-in-the-sky thinking not too long ago.
But these are indeed strange times.
And the Leigh Sports Village looked utterly resplendent as it provided a worthy host for the evening.
Given Lionel’s incredible back catalogue – with over 90 million sales – the only problem would have been working out how to fit ‘All The Hits’ into his 100-minute set.
No time for fillers, just back-to-back anthems that were sung back to him by his adoring public – with interest.
First up, ‘Easy’...an early nod to his Commodores days...and what a way to get the crowd up for it from the off.
In the absence of Diana Ross, ‘Endless Love’ was performed with the crowd on duet duties – a supreme effort with not a single note missed.
Given the surroundings, ‘Say You, See Leigh’ – sorry ‘Say You, Say Me’ – was always going to be a highlight.
As was ‘Hello (is it Leigh you’re looking for?)’, My Destiny’, ‘One, Twice, Three Times a Lady’ and many more.
But as much as the songs themselves, it was the audience interaction that made this such a special evening.
The regular ‘banter’ with the crowd that confirmed Lionel wasn’t just going through the motions.
He spoke to the crowd like he was addressing friends...with a real personal touch that you just can’t fake.
“I was speaking to a guy earlier, a 280-pound guy, who told me he’d made love to me over a hundred times,” confided Lionel, story-teller supreme.
“His wife, stood next to him, said: ‘True. I was there’.”
He’s telling the tale so well – probably for the thousandth time, but feeling like the first – we’re even starting to feel a tad awkward for his predicament.
“They’re both really excited, and I’m starting to get a little worried here, I won’t lie...
“Then they told me their song was ‘Stuck On You’.
“Boy was I relieved...”
As timed ticked by, and darkness fell, Lionel continued to drift in and out of singer/compere mode, with effortless ease.
“I’m from California...it was 101 degrees when I left home,” he mused.
“Not 27 degrees below freezing like it is here.
“Your summer is my winter...but we won’t talk about that. Much.”
With most of the crowd showing bare arms and/or bare legs, one hopes if and hopefully when Lionel returns to Leigh – which he promised he would – it won’t be in our winter.
As the set came to a close – before our hero froze to death – we were treated to a stirring rendition of ‘We Are The World’, which Lionel co-wrote with Michael Jackson and Stevie Wonder.
And all that was left was to move towards the close with ‘Dancing On The Ceiling’ – which we surely would have been, had there been one – before the crowning glory.
‘All Night Long’, which couldn’t have been sung with more gusto, more passion, more energy had the setting been the bright lights of Las Vegas.
Which is where, for a couple of hours at least, we could easily have been...thanks to a master showman at the top of his game.