For Richie and fans, an endless love

Times Staff Writer

Few men woo like Lionel Richie. Whether counting his way through his beloved's virtues in the old Commodores hit "Three Times a Lady" or comparing her to the sun and the rain in his solo sensation "You Are," he's so suave and sexy that he's pretty much irresistible.

What quickly became clear during his Friday concert at the Kodak Theatre was how well his love songs also describe his passion for performing. Seated at the piano for his opener, "Hello," he made a point of looking out at the audience as he sang, "You are all I've ever wanted." And later, after the "Still" lyric "I wonder if you need me now" was met by screams of assent, he seemed to pour particular feeling into the title phrase "I do love you / still."

The performance was part of a tour supporting "Coming Home," the 2 1/2 -month-old album that is Richie's latest attempt to reignite the excitement of the 1970s, when he fronted the Commodores, and the '80s, when he was a red-hot solo artist.

He hardly bothered to sing from the new album, however, beyond an early rendition of "I Call It Love."

Instead, he sampled generously from his big-selling, Grammy-winning oldies. The audience sang along on the choruses of "Easy"; the women in the house provided the Diana Ross portions of "Endless Love." In midnight-black satiny shirt and velvety pants, Richie, 57, was dressed for romancing, and that's just what he did as he turned his rich, saxophone-like voice to two dozen songs in two hours.

Party-hearty renditions of songs like "Dancing on the Ceiling" got people up and dancing; the slow, sweet caresses of such songs as "Three Times" eased them back into the seats. A five-member band, led by Chuckii Booker, supplied super-funky grooves but got sent offstage midshow so that Richie could sit at the piano to court the crowd directly with "Still," "Sail On" and "Oh No."

All of which proved the truth of the "I Call It Love" lyric that goes: "Oh, we have a love that's unbreakable / And it's not time to let it go."

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