Lionel Richie. Picture: Don Benson Photography

CONCERT
Lionel Richie and John Farnham
3.5 stars
Sandalford Winery, Swan Valley
Sunday, March 2
REVIEW ANNI FORDHAM

Popular touring artists often struggle to strike a balance between rattling off their biggest hits night after night and testing out new material, but put two of the biggest hit makers of the past 40-odd years on one stage and the outcome is inevitable. The concert billed as "all the hits, all night long" was exactly that.

John Farnham kicked off with 1988's Age of Reason and never strayed far from the hits. Chain Reaction got bums off seats, setting the scene for a party that continued well after Farnesy's set.

A false start on Touch of Paradise was forgiven as Farnham's voice removed any doubt as to whether one of Australia's most successful solo artists was still up to the job.

Playing to Win was a festival of synth and sax, while Pressure Down and You're the Voice got rapturous receptions.

The encore was a homage to another Aussie icon with the band letting loose on AC/DC's Long Way to the Top.

At 64, Farnham may have lost a bit of hair but the Voice is still very much intact.

Lionel Richie's set was a flashier affair.

After a wobbly start with a dud microphone, Richie warmed up with 2004 release Just For You - which was met with a lukewarm response. Luckily, it was the only one he'd get all night.

"Tonight we're going to cover everything," he said, before delving into his well-worn and well-loved catalogue.

The often-covered Commodores ballad Easy morphed into reggae mid-song and seamlessly morphed back.

Richie, also 64, was careful not to let the crowd sit for too long and had them dancing in the aisles again with You Are.

He acknowledged the special meaning his music had for many fans, with a trip down memory lane featuring him alone on the piano. This was Richie at his intimate best.

Richie packed a huge number of Commodores tracks into the set, including Brick House and Three Times a Lady.

Endless Love, originally a duet with Diana Ross, involved the audience singing Ross' part. "This is karaoke at its finest," the star said.

Dancing on the Ceiling had people dancing in aisles, on chairs and with unwitting security guards. Sentimental ballad Hello signalled the end of the show and the biggest sing-along of the night.

The encore featured the hand-holding, arm-waving We Are the World - the huge 80s charity single co-written with Michael Jackson.

Cheesy, yes, but a date with Richie promises nothing less.

The West Australian

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