Dubai: Thursday night at Dubai Media City was a special moment for couples who wanted to save their marriages, strengthen them, bask in the warmth of new relationships, recover from ugly breakups and even adjust their biological clocks to go home and plan babies.
Everybody who fitted into these slots had a two-hour appointment with Lionel Brockman Richie Jr who dropped into Dubai for a much-awaited concert.
Richie was a navigator par excellence of a kaleidoscopic and at times sentimental journey during which he took his fans across the ’70s, ’80s and ’90s, which, for some, were important moments in their lives.
“Dubai! I want to take you back to where you were. What you were doing. And who you were doing it with. Yalla habibi,” he said in his inimitable smooth voice, which penetrated the airwaves across the venue activating the memory banks of everyone present and forcing them to reminisce about forgotten, or bottled up, tender and sometimes heartbreaking moments.
It was all about love and romance. When it comes to playing on these two sentiments nobody does it better than Lionel Richie.
“We have known each other a long time,” he said slickly into the microphone, like a qualified behavioural specialist about to hypnotise his patients. Then he applied his formula for a cure.
Starting with a mildly up-tempo Just for You to set the pace Richie then launched into Penny Lover, an all-time classic from his second solo album Can’t Slow Down (1983), which went on to become a monster hit reinforcing his genius as a songwriter.
The party was on as Richie flirted, teased and cajoled the women in the audience with his cool Motown jive talk and his lyrics filled with oxytocin, a powerful hormone that acts as a neurotransmitter in the brain, firing up in moments of bonding.
“Let’s keep it rolling,” he exhorted the band. What followed was a string of specials which made the crowds turn to mush. Richie was warming up as he belted out Easy, Ballerina Girl and then applied the coup de grace with the evergreen Truly — the first solo hit that launched him into superstardom in 1982.
A bit of spice was then applied with Running With The Night. Then he talked about the good and bad in relationships, breaking into Lady, I Want You To Want Me and Stuck On You. The crowd sang back when he looked at them in askance as if to test their memories.
Richie then stole away the wives and girlfriends of every able-bodied man present by making them sing with him — and to him — in Endless Love.
Then came Hello, which every female was looking for, followed by a change of pace in All Night Long and Say You Say Me — which won him an Oscar and a Golden Globe for the film White Nights in 1985.
Richie closed the shop down with We Are The World, which he co-wrote with Michael Jackson in 1985. By this time the audience was emotionally spent.
As couples walked out of the venue, they were holding on to each other for support. Their eyes spelled out just one expression that could set the tone for the rest of the night… promise.