From his monumental career on Motown Records as front man for The Commodores through a solo stretch that’s sold over 100 million albums, Lionel Richie’s track record more than speaks for itself. And though CeeLo Green hasn’t amassed that type of history just yet, he’s at least attracting the attention it takes between time in Goodie Mob, Gnarls Barkley and an individual recording career that also spawned a judge’s seat on “The Voice.” Put the pair together on a tour, and it made for a textbook case of the old school and current class coming together with loads of sweet soul that found an all-ages audience occupying the sizable pavilion of the First Midwest Bank Amphitheatre.
Though the singer/songwriter accomplished mounds of commercial acclaim on his own, the true creative chestnuts came from those treasured Commodores days when he practically wrote the book on piano-centered soul sentiments.
Naturally, the veteran Richie had the headlining slot and he truly lived up to his promise of “All The Hits All Night Long.” Outside of opening with one the newer contemporary soul cut “All Around The World,” the journey focused on literally everything from back in the day with the 64-year-old entertainer sounding and looking like he’s really taken care of himself over the ensuing years. Though the singer/songwriter accomplished mounds of commercial acclaim on his own, the true creative chestnuts came from those treasured Commodores days when he practically wrote the book on piano-centered soul sentiments.
From “Easy” to “Still” to “Oh No” and “Sail On,” it was a massive karaoke fest with Richie leading jubilantly from behind the keys. He also made sure to spend just as much time on the dance floor, supported by a youthful band that helped strain out some of the more dated productions in favor of up to date arrangements. Whether it was R&B-infused pop of his own “You Are” and “Running With The Night” or the group’s funk jams “Fancy Dancer” and “Lady (You Bring Me Up),” they all possessed a newfound liveliness, enhanced by a giant video wall that interspersed the live action with themed visuals.
Fellow band classic “Brick House” dropped its disco inclinations for guitar-driven psychedelic soul, earning the title for the two hour evening’s definitive groove, though surprisingly, Richie didn’t consider it the crown jewel of his career. An encore revealed that “We Are The World” was actually his favorite, not just because it was written with longtime friend Michael Jackson, but also because it provided significant charitable contributions to African famine relief. And as photos from the legendary recording sessions flashed above him (including shots of the “King of Pop,” Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Bruce Springsteen and Tina Turner), it was apparent that Richie could convey poignancy with just as much fervor as he could bring the party.
As for CeeLo Green’s near hour long appearance, it was pure merrymaking planted in the present tense, but also with a noticeable appreciation for the artists who paved the way before him. “Bright Lights Bigger City” off his solo debut disc “The Lady Killer” was loaded with a meaty bass bounce, silky synths and the singer’s confident swagger, which merged seamlessly with a covers medley that featured Luther Vandross’ “Never Too Much,” Cameo’s “Candy” and Sister Sledge’s “We Are Family.”
Green dipped back even further to salute “The Godfather of Soul” James Brown with a bubbly take on “I Got You (I Feel Good),” joyfully laying the groundwork for the personally penned retro revival “Satisfied.” Though the 40-year-old powerhouse picked up a plethora of positive lessons from such heroes of yesteryear, he hasn’t fully embraced the element of class often afforded to that generation, instead coming across somewhat crass during between song banter, much to the chagrin of more mature concertgoers.
Nonetheless, attendees of all ages jumped to their feet from the first cymbal crash of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy,” which found the vibrant, predominately female backing band sizzling with sass and assisting in the ideal summertime sing-a-long. The smoking rhythms continued moving the masses come the grand finale “Forget You,” perhaps the best weapon in Green’s charismatic arsenal of soul, hip-hop, pop and a powerhouse presentation that definitely gives the singer/songwriter/rapper/producer distinction as he strives for additional longevity.