Laugh the night away

COMING SOON: Lionel Richie will tour New Zealand with John Farnham in March 2014.
COMING SOON: Lionel Richie will tour New Zealand with John Farnham in March 2014.

Lionel Richie offers to protect Vicki Anderson from John Farnham when the pair tour New Zealand next year. She talked to both of them about twerking and is still recovering.

They might seem like an incongruous match but listening to Lionel Richie and John Farnham chatting is like eavesdropping on a mutual admiration society.

The pair have never met but have quickly built up a friendship over the phone.

Within minutes it becomes clear that this is going to be an unusual conference call and I turf my prepared questions off the end of the desk.

There will be no in-depth discussion about The Commodores today.

Farnham quips: "We're going to bruise each other's backs when we finally meet each other" and says that he already feels as if Richie is a "lifelong friend".

Richie describes Farnham as Australia's answer to Elvis.

"When you first come down to tour Australia, you ask who the superstar is and number one at the top of everyone's list was John. This is the Elvis Presley of Australia," Richie declares.

Farnham replies in his best Elvis: "No pressure".

The pair will perform in a co- headlining tour across New Zealand in March.

"I think New Zealand is one of the most beautiful places on the planet," Farnham says. "I say that with all of my heart. To be able to come over there with a man like Lionel Richie, it's going to be great fun."

While Richie says he is looking forward to enjoying our warm weather.

"I have to tell you a fun story about me and New Zealand. It was summertime, I took off my clothes and jumped in a lake. I wondered why no-one came behind me to jump in the lake. That water was so cold in the dead of your summer, are you kidding me? Even though you have nice weather, I almost froze my wabbles to death."

There's a brief discussion as to the health of Richie's "wabbles", then the interview descends into utter madness when I ask if either of them have ever twerked.

Farnham: "I have my own thing, I tweque."

Richie: "You tweque and I twitch, between the two of us we've got a problem."

Farnham: "The tweque is a nipple thing. To make the tweque work your hands have got to be wet."

Richie: "Vicki, I'm so sorry, I didn't realise John was under this kind of pressure."

Farnham: "I won't tweque you, I promise. I'm enjoying talking to you so much I'm going to find it hard not to kiss you fair on the mouth."

Richie: "Vicki, I'll protect you, don't worry. Stay on the phone."

In an attempt to bring the conversation back to some degree of normality, I ask Richie if it's true that "I've made love to you many times" is the quote most people say to him.

"That's so true. The thing that scares me about that is the person saying it to me is usually a 235 pound man. They say 'Lionel, I want to tell you I've made love to you many times'. I'm going, 'hold it now, that's a lie. What you want to tell me is you have made love to your wife or with your girlfriend while my music is playing'."

Farnham's nickname is The Voice.

He says people approach him in the street and shout: "You're the voice, try and understand it".

"I find that very strange," Farnham admits. "I'm very flattered that people call me that. I think it's to do with the song You're the Voice, not my voice."

Richie disagrees: "I think it has a lot to do with your voice. It got me thinking. For this tour, if John's going to be called The Voice, I'll be The Body".

I ask about the setlist.

Farnham says they haven't worked out the finer details yet.

"I'm going to do my set, Lionel's going to do his set, that's a given. I'm sure that there will be surprises throughout the series we're doing. We'll have done some shows in Australia and we'll be well in our straps by the time we get over there."

Richie, 64, rose from humble beginnings in Tuskegee, Alabama, to become one of the most influential figures in music. The singer, songwriter and frontman of The Commodores has a massive back catalogue of hits including Brick House, Easy, Sail On and Three Times A Lady.

An Oscar and Golden Globe winner, Richie went solo in 1982 and dominated the decade with hits like Say You Say Me, All Night Long and Dancing On The Ceiling.

Australian Farnham, 64, is a former child star who released his first hit, Sadie The Cleaning Lady in 1967. A 15-time ARIA Award winner, Farnham parlayed his teen idol fame into stage musicals, cabaret, and a stint with the Little River Band. He's best known for Whispering Jack, released in 1987, and hits including A Touch Of Paradise and chart-topping single You're The Voice.

Richie says the biggest problem for the pair is choosing songs from their respective catalogues.

"There's a body of work and each night when either of us walks on stage the audience request the body of work. That's a blessing. Our problem is can we get the right songs? Guaranteed, every night when we walk off stage someone will say to me, or John, 'you didn't play that song'.

"I'm just looking forward to seeing John on stage, this guy has a voice which shakes the rafters."

While in New Zealand, Farnham says he is hoping to do some fishing.

Richie laughs. "Just to show the contradiction between the two of us, if you see me fishing or in the water I fell off the pier. I think I'm going to go eat. Forget the fishing, someone else can catch the fish, I'll eat the fish, I am that guy."

He and Farnham laugh hysterically.

Richie: "Have we scared you to death yet? It's going to be too much fun. If this interview is any indication of what the shows are going to be like, we're going to have fun. We haven't even met each other yet, it's going to be off the chain. After this interview I'm looking for two people to come by John's house and my house to lock us up."

Farnham: "I'm quite happy to be out there".

Richie: "We want to meet you so we can finally lay eyes on you. I'll lay eyes on you, I don't know what John's going to do."

Farnham: "I never tweque a stranger".

Awkward. Realising the best thing is to bow out as gracefully as I can, I bid them farewell.

Richie says: "We love you, thank you."

As I'm hanging up the phone, I hear Richie laugh and say: "John, you are out of control."


Lionel Richie and John Farnham at CBS Canterbury Arena on March 20. Tickets go on sale today through Ticketek, 0800 842 538 or

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