Review: Lionel Richie and John Farnham

Last updated 07:53 21/03/2014
Lionel Richie
John Kirk-Anderson/Fairfax NZ

IN FINE FORM: Lionel Richie at CBS Canterbury Arena last night.

John Farnham
John Kirk-Anderson/Fairfax NZ
THE VOICE: Fifteen-time ARIA Award winner John Farnham at CBS Arena.

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It wasn't quite dancing on the ceiling all night long but it was close.

Two strong hearts, Lionel Richie and John Farnham, share a mutual respect for each other's material which was evident at the CBS Canterbury Arena last night.

Ahead of the show Richie described Farnham as the ''Elvis Presley of Australia'' and Farnham was equally glowing in his praise for Richie, an Oscar and Golden Globe winner who has sold over 100 million albums both with the Commodores and during a lengthy solo career.

Each boasts an impressive back catalogue of hits ranging several decades and pre-show speculation was rife amongst 6000 fans in the packed arena as to who would impress the most.

Farnham's nickname is ''The Voice'' and arriving on stage first, the 15-time ARIA Award winner lived up to it.
During a set which lasted over an hour, the Australian charmed the audience with both his astonishingly powerful voice and old-school Benny Hill-style banter.

"I'm rooted," the 64-year-old said, mopping his brow, "to the spot".

The man of the hour who sported a world class mullet in the 80s offered chart-topping hits including Touch of Paradise (as a child I wondered why Farnsey was touching parrot's eyes), You're the Voice which included a bagpipe solo which the crowd danced to, Pressure Down, That's Freedom, Love to Shine, Talk of the Town and an awkward, for one male audience member at least, version of No-One Comes Close.

Backed by a solid band, Farnham strutted the stage like a rooster on a mission and gently rocked the crowd back to the 80s.

Returning for an encore, Farnham rocked out with a cover of AC/DCs It's A Long Way to the Top before bowing out to a standing ovation.

The mood changed to bow chicka bow wow with the arrival of smooth soul star Lionel Richie, 64. Strobe lights searched the crowd while a disco-infused Hello Is It Me You're Looking For? filled the arena.

Accompanied by a tight young band, including an outstanding multi-talented harmonica and saxophone player, these musicians added fresh, modern touches to familiar tunes and complemented Richie well.

Richie was in fine form. His voice offered subtler qualities and textures than Farnham's as he took his extended Cantabrian family on a journey through their lives.

Many people live, love, marry and go out of this world accompanied by Richie's voice and it is something he is acutely aware of.

When you're heartbroken or in love, at some point you're going to "rush home, put on your record, CD, cassette or 8-track and you're going to call on Mr Lionel Richie".

Hits from the Commodores resonated with the crowd, a reggae-tinged version of Easy was impressive, but Richie really shone when performing balkads like Stuck On You on the piano. His 90 minute set was full of highlights including Brick House, Truly, Running With the Night, All Night Long, Endless Love with the crowd singing in place of Diana Ross, but the entire crowd dancing like it was 1982 to Dancing on the Ceiling was a spectacular sight.

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Returning for an encore performance of We Are the World Richie received a standing ovation.

Farnham and Richie offered Cantabrians two very different but equally outstanding performances and the sound quality at the notoriously difficult CBS Arena was one of the best I have experienced.

Both Richie and Farnham proved you have to have music in your life to make your soul dance.

John Farnham and Lionel Richie at CBS Canterbury Arena, Thursday, March 20.

- The Press


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