Music icon Lionel Richie has charted plenty of hits during a career that has spanned nearly 50 years and includes more than 100 million records sold. He performed nearly all of them Wednesday night on Opening Day of the California Mid-State Fair in Paso Robles.
Richie, the 68-year-old former member of The Commodores, looked as though he’s been dodging Father Time as he took the stage and started the show with a performance of “Running With The Night.” When he finished the song, Richie told a story about his last experience with Paso Robles.
“I had a manager, Ken Kragen, who lives here,” Richie said. “I came to visit. I decide to walk around in the backyard of their beautiful ranch, and while I was walking around Ken just happened to mention, ‘Watch out Lionel, it’s rattlesnake season.’ I ain’t been back here ever since.”
The story got a good laugh from the crowd of more than 4,200 fans who were standing for most of the show. Then Richie got to the reason why everyone had come to the Chumash Arena on a cool July night.
“Tonight we are going to do all the hits ... all night long! Let’s get started!”
He backed it up with a cavalcade of pop music staples like “Hello,” “Penny Lover,” “Say You, Say Me” and “Dancing On The Ceiling,” a song that energized the crowd after the romantic ballads. His smooth voice continued to sound good during the middle of the set, which featured a run of Commodores hits like “Easy,” “Three Times A Lady” and “Brick House.”
In between songs, Richie sipped red wine from a glass and referred to it as “Paso juice.”
After a performance of “Endless Love,” during which the crowed played the part of Diana Ross and a shout out to Michael Jackson before a performance of “We Are The World,” Richie belted out the song fans had been calling for since he first stepped on stage — “All Night Long.”
After the song, he said goodnight and didn’t return for an encore, surprising considering he still had plenty of songs left in his repertoire. Maybe he felt like the crowd got everything they needed.
Maybe he just saw a rattlesnake.