The California Mid-State Fair opened last Wednesday, which consistently has a lineup filled with many of the best country music artists in the world. However, the first concert of the busy, boot-filled, booze heavy ten days of entertainment that the fair provides drew a slightly different crowd.
I may or may not have been the youngest person in attendance by some 10 or twelve years, but when Lionel Richie finally strolled onto the stage I found myself screaming like a teenage girl at the sight of a new car on her Sweet 16 birthday.
It felt like being in a time machine, (not that I know what the mid 80s and early 90s were like, but I have seen pictures). Richie came out rocking his vintage look: black pants, black shirt, black leather jacket and a gold necklace...incredible. The closer I advanced to the stage the more it seemed like it might, in fact, be the same jacket from the mid 80s, but while his jacket seemed worn and battered his smile still shined as beautiful as ever. Richie played all his hits, even throwing it back to the Commodores on more than one occasion.
Starting off with classics like “Easy” and “Stuck On You,” the crowd became hypnotized by the shaking hips of the former sex symbol. After starting fast, he slowed it down as an aura of love began to fill the arena with the power of a bad cologne in a tiny elevator. It was infectious and inescapable! He sang “Endless Love” and teased that Diana Ross was going to come out (I actually grabbed my camera and sprinted toward the stage, but he was only joking) before playing a Michael Jackson tribute to “We are the World.” His MJ tribute was heartfelt and nearly every cellphone flashlight in the grandstand was pointed to the heavens as they sang along with the angelic voice echoing throughout the evening air.
After making the crowd feel all warm and fuzzy inside, the familiar riff of “Brick House” started to play for no more than a second before it was drowned out by the cheers of a crowd that was ready to dance. Richie continued to play his greatest hits all night long, (pun fully intended) sometimes dazzling us on the piano as he did when he played “Easy.”
Richie’s stop in Paso Robles was a fortunate one and the reason why I was compelled to cover this concert. Two days after playing our little fair, Richie began his “All The Hits” tour with Mariah Carey in San Francisco. Wednesday’s show certainly featured all the hits, and I imagine it was the perfect warm up show for the superstar before starting a large tour.