An interview with Lionel Richie

With Lionel Richie hitting Birmingham tomorrow, Andy Richardson chats to him about touring, Glastonbury and Kanye's infamous Brit Awards performance.

An interview with Lionel Richie

Hello to the fans – Lionel Richie is looking forward to playing all his hits at the Barclaycard Arena in Birmingham tomorrow

He’s been so successful for so long that the word ‘legend’ now sits comfortably with Lionel Richie.

The former Commodores star, who brings his All The Hits All Night Long tour to Birmingham’s Barclaycard Arena tomorrow, is glad to be considered in that way.

While his tour will keep him busy this spring, he’s also looking forward to an eventful summer.

He’ll play the Sunday Legend slot at Glastonbury in June – the same one country star Dolly Parton sang in last year.

Glastonbury’s Emily Eavis said: “We are over the moon. We’ve had some amazing performances in the Sunday teatime slot over the years, from Neil Diamond, Shirley Bassey, Paul Simon and many others.

“And, of course, Dolly Parton played an incredible set. So we felt very lucky to get the call from a true Motown legend asking to play. He’s got so many amazing songs, to see him perform here on the farm is just going to be wonderful.”

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Richie has played some of the UK’s biggest venues and arenas, including Hyde Park.

“Hyde Park is like family. It’s family. The Commodores started in London, England, on this scale. When I see the crowd, I’m watching grandmothers, mothers and fathers and kids. It’s three generations.”

Richie’s present tour will feature a galaxy of greatest hits – and it’s not easy picking a set list when his back catalogue includes greats like Hello, Easy, Three Times A Lady, Still, All Night Long, Endless Love, Truly, Penny Lover, Sail On, Dancing On The Ceiling and many, many more.

“What we do is just keep playing until the crowd goes….. The idea is who is going to outsing who. The angle is that everybody has a song that was theirs – that they either went to school on or was mum’s favourite, or it was an anniversary song. I’m like the master of ceremonies. I just go out there and get it going and then I’m just like the cheerleader throughout the whole thing.”

Richie remains evergreen – though he is at odds with some of the biggest artists in the world today.

He was unimpressed, for instance, with Kanye West’s expletive-laden BRITs performance, which controversially featured the N-word. He said: “Am I fan of the N-word? Not coming from the 1960s and ‘70s. Whereas the new world has embraced it.

“I don’t think it’s OK for a black man to use the N-word. I don’t like it – and I am a black man. I don’t think it should be said and become normal. Kanye is giving this generation shock value. How he carries on for the next 10 years we will see.”

Richie has entertained the world for more than 40 years and loves big crowds.

“Normally when I tour I’m trying to sell an album or I’m trying to sell a song or I’m trying to sell something. This is just pound for pound, record after record after record. That’s what we got to do.”

 By Andy Richardson

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