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Lionel Richie sounds right at home on a Las Vegas stage

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Planet Hollywood resident Lionel Richie is fully embracing being a Las Vegas showman.
Denise Truscello
Jason Harris

Four stars

Lionel Richie April 27, The Axis at Planet Hollywood.

If opening night—when more than 4,000 fans turned out for the show dubbed All the Hits—was any indication, there should be an announcement soon extending Lionel Richie’s Planet Hollywood residency into 2017 and beyond. The 66-year-old R&B legend has been so successful over the decades that he actually left a couple of chart-climbers out of a set that covered his near-50-year career. What stood out most: 1. Richie is a hit-making machine. 2. He’s fully embracing being a Las Vegas showman.

Lionel Richie Opening Night at Axis

The Commodores years were well-represented with “Easy (Like Sunday Morning),” complete with Caribbean breakdown, early in the show. But it was a monster medley of the group’s other work that took the energy to the next level during the second half. As retro videos—with song titles in retro fonts—played on the large LED panels behind the stage, Richie and his five-piece backing band tore through “Fancy Dancer,” “Sweet Love,” “Lady (You Bring Me Up)” and “Just to Be Close to You.” It was a thought-out set piece that had the audience longing for bell-bottoms and afros.

Another memorable bit found Richie storytelling about the stages of love—breaking up, seeing your ex with someone new and meeting someone else yourself—and each story ended with the funny yet truthful exclamation, “You run home. You grab your album, your CD, your 8-track, and you call on ... Lionel Richie.” In sequence he played “Lady,” “Oh No” and “Stuck on You” to represent those feelings.

The night crossed its emotional threshold when Richie reflected on his relationship with Prince, explaining that they shared a love and competitive spirit. He got choked up recalling how Prince told him he thought “Say You Say Me” was “badass.”

Memories are what this show is about. It’s a victory lap for Richie, and well-deserved.

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