Lionel Richie says ‘Hello’ to crowd of adoring Israeli fans

The 70-year-old crooner says his friends have been trying for 40 years to get him to come to Israel; ‘now he knows why’

Crooner Lionel Richie sings to an adoring crowd at his long awaited Tel Aviv performance on March 2, 2020. (Courtesy ToI Staff)
Crooner Lionel Richie sings to an adoring crowd at his long awaited Tel Aviv performance on March 2, 2020. (Courtesy ToI Staff)

There was an audience full of adoring fans for crooner Lionel Richie, as he performed Monday night, March 2, at Tel Aviv’s Menora Mivtachim Arena.

Richie, who began his 90-minute show at 7 p.m., an hour and a half earlier than originally planned, to account for the unexpected third election day, said he was pleased to finally be in Israel.

“My friends have been trying to convince me to come for 40 years,” he said. “Now I know why.”

Richie landed Saturday morning in Israel in a private plane, after performing in Dubai. He planned to be in Israel for five days.

He said the crowd was “amazing,” and spoke about the warmth he had already experienced in Israel, where he was greeted by name on the street by people with both American and French accents.

“What an international crowd,” said Richie.

The 70-year-old balladeer, performing for his first time in Israel, sang all of his greatest 1980s hits, including “Hello,” “Endless Love,” “All Night Long,” and a host of Commodores favorites, such as “Sail On,” “Easy Like Sunday Morning” and “Brick House.”

The crowd all sang along with him, whether he was facing them in his red sequined Commodores styled tailcoat, seated at the piano, or dancing around in one of his two sequined bomber jackets.

Crooner Lionel Richie sings along with the audience at his Tel Aviv performance on March 2, 2020. (Courtesy ToI staff)

Richie fed the audience the lines for “Endless Love,” but the crowd of middle-aged fans did not need any help, knowing every single word by heart.

“7,000 Diana Rosses, right here in the holy land, unbelievable,” said Richie, who sang the Grammy-winning song in 1981 with Ross.

The former Commodores singer, who recently turned 70 and is a judge on “American Idol,” is on a world tour, with 30 shows in the US, Canada, and the UK.

Richie was backed by an all-male band, and was in good form as a showman, tailoring his song delivery to work around any weaknesses in his voice, and with plenty of energy on stage, whether playing piano or facing the audience, chatting easily throughout the show.

“People cry to happy songs and laugh at sad songs because we’re dealing with memories,” said Richie, who added that he has outlived much of his competition, such as Prince, Whitney Houston, and George Michael.

Richie’s trip to Israel was put together by producer Marcel Abraham, who has previously brought Justin Bieber, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Jennifer Lopez to Tel Aviv.

Performer Lionel Richie (far left), landed on February 29, 2020, in Israel, ahead of his March 2 concert in Tel Aviv. (Courtesy Erez Ozir)

After a prolonged “All Night Long” for an encore, Richie bid goodbye to the crowd, letting them know they had all walked in as individuals, but were now a family.

“See you next year,” said Richie.

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