REVIEW: Lionel Richie delivers a set full of surprises and soaring singalong moments in Northampton

What a night - megastar Lionel Richie kept the 17,000 crowd at Franklin's Gardens in high spirits during a stunning world tour opener.
What a night - megastar Lionel Richie kept the 17,000 crowd at Franklin's Gardens in high spirits during a stunning world tour opener.

You don't get the chance to see that many megastars in Northampton.

Elton John at the County Ground a few years back springs to mind, but you would usually have travel to one of the big cities for an artist of that calibre.

Support act Anastacia rolled out a series of hits from her early 2000s repertoire.

Support act Anastacia rolled out a series of hits from her early 2000s repertoire.

All that changed last night at Franklin's Gardens though, with the arrival of one of the biggest selling music artists of all time - Lionel Richie.

The concert began as it would go on - flashing lights, dry ice and rumbling instruments - with a set that was full of surprises.

Not least of which was the song which kicked everything off.

My money would have been on Easy (Like Sunday Morning) closing the show but no, here was Lionel sitting down at his piano launching straight into the biggest hit from his old band the Commodores.

One of thousands of selfies taken at the Gardens on a special night.

One of thousands of selfies taken at the Gardens on a special night.

It was a spectacular start to a spectacular night. The whole 17,000 crowd were on their feet the moment the first note was played, and stayed there until the very last an hour and half later.

The multi-Grammy award-winning artist switched effortlessly between more upbeat numbers and his signature soulful ballads, keeping everybody on their toes and not knowing what to expect next.

Speaking of upbeat, the way Richie moved about the stage during the likes of Dancing on the Ceiling would have been incredible for a man half his age, never mind one who will be 70 next year.

He even managed to overcome a frog in the throat early on with the help of a liberal amount of what looked like blackcurrant squash from a Lionel Richie-branded plastic cup!

All night long: Lionel Richie, held the crowd in the palm of his hand.

All night long: Lionel Richie, held the crowd in the palm of his hand.

There were plenty of invitations to sing along, especially when Richie introduced Endless Love, originally recorded with Diana Ross.

Ms Ross couldn't join us last night, but all the women in the crowd stood in ably for her.

A poignant moment came when Richie remembered many of the artists who have passed away in recent years, including Prince, George Michael and David Bowie.

He then performed We are the World, co-written with Michael Jackson - a genuinely moving moment.

More than 17,000 fans packed Franklin's Gardens for a night singalong.

More than 17,000 fans packed Franklin's Gardens for a night singalong.

Despite the size of the audience there was an intimate feel to the evening, created by Richie's constant chat between (and sometimes during) songs during which his warmth and personality really shone through.

He seemed genuinely delighted to be there, even claiming at one point he was having 'the best night of his life', which is quite a claim from the person who once performed at the closing ceremony of an Olympic Games.

The song he sang that night in 1984, All Night Long, closed the set here too - it's not underestimating things to say he, and we, could have gone on all night long too.

Check out our full gallery in Thursday's paper to see if you can spot yourself in the crowd.

Check out our full gallery in Thursday's paper to see if you can spot yourself in the crowd.