The run-up to the Lionel Richie’s “All the Hits” tour, with special guest Mariah Carey, has been unusually rocky.
The tour’s initial area concerts in April, which originally included a show in the opening week of NYCB Live’s Nassau Coliseum, were either canceled or postponed so that Richie could have more time to recover from knee surgery and Carey could put more distance between her and her New Year’s Eve lip-syncing debacle in Times Square.
So maybe it shouldn’t be surprising that the tour stop at Madison Square Garden on Saturday night had mixed results.
The postponement worked well for Richie, who was in fine form throughout his 90-minute set, looking ready to dance all night long. But Carey’s show was a bizarre yet entertaining hour that simply didn’t fit a superstar of her standing. It was charming in its own way, especially when her twins, Roc and Roe, joined her onstage for “Always Be My Baby.”
There were times when Carey knew she was being ridiculous, like when her glam squad gave her a touch up, as she sat on her throne 20 minutes into the show. “Is it too much?” she asked as her team fixed her makeup and straightened the train of her gold dress.
Well, yes, but that is the diva behavior we have come to expect from the Greenlawn native.
The weirder bit came as Power 105.1 DJ Suss-One came on to play Michael Jackson songs for five minutes while Carey changed dresses. Somehow, the solo artist with the most No. 1 hits in history needs a DJ to help her pad out an already abbreviated opening set? Come on.
That’s just the most obvious sign of Carey not applying herself. Yes, her desire to remain seated has been well-documented recently by her former choreographer, and there was even a point when she was carried off the stage. But it’s the times when Carey doesn’t sing enough that are most confusing, even during key moments like her classic “One Sweet Day,” which had stretches where no one could be heard singing the melody because the mix was off and Carey was ad-libbing.
When Carey does sing the entire song, as she did during “Vision of Love” and “Hero,” her voice is still stunning, but the crowd had to be prompted to clap to get her to return for “Hero.” Maybe she could pick up some pointers from Richie’s show, which is as sleek and well-paced as they come.
Ever the engaging host, Richie’s rapport with the audience allows him to bounce between Commodores’ funk like “Brick House” and ballads like “Hello” and even incorporate surprises like “Fancy Dancer” and “Just to Be Close to You.” But it’s the times when he is alone at the piano, like in “Three Times a Lady,” where he truly shines and his spirit comes through in anthems like “We Are the World” and “All Night Long (All Night).”
“My job is to play all the hits,” Richie said after an extended version of “Running With the Night.” And he handled that job like a true professional.
MARIAH CAREY SETLIST: Heat >I’m That Chick / Heartbreaker (Remix) / Fantasy (Remix) / Touch My Body / I Know What You Want / My All / Always Be My Baby / Don’t Forget About Us / One Sweet Day / It’s Like That / Vision of Love / We Belong Together // ENCORE: Hero
LIONEL RICHIE SETLIST: Easy / My Love / Running With the Night / Penny Lover / Truly / You Are / Stuck on You / Dancing on the Ceiling >Jump / Three Times a Lady / Sail On / Fancy Dancer >Sweet Love >Lady (You Bring Me Up) / Just to be Close to You / Brick House >Fire / Hello / Say You, Say Me / We Are the World // ENCORE: All Night Long (All Night)