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housands of overseas visitors descended on Jamaica’s tourism capital, Montego Bay, for the 2009 three-night Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival at the Cinnamon Hill Golf Course in Rose Hall from January 22 – 24. Armed with blankets, folding chairs, friends and good vibes, patrons flocked the lawns around the old aqueduct to witness what truly can be described as the ‘art of music’. A great success, this year’s Jazz & Blues Festival was without question stolen by veteran singer and song writer Lionel Richie, who performed on the second night of the event. With captivating music and huge stage presence, the Grammy winner raised the energy level several notches and created an electric atmosphere, leaving the awestruck crowds dancing and screaming for more. T

Richie’s playful courting of the masses of women who had gathered in front of the stage was a constant source of amusement throughout the performance, which had the entire island buzzing for days. Said one enthusiastic festival patron; “Richie’s masterful interaction with the audience got the crowds engaged right away, he really grabbed everyone’s attention from the beginning.” The audience, who knew the lyrics to almost every song and sang along to Richie’s performance at the top of their voices, nearly overpowered the singer on several occasions. “I am starting to feel that you don’t need me!” chuckled the singer, a comment to which the enamored spectators loudly voiced their disagreement.

The amazing Lionel Richie captivated the audience with endless number of top hits

It is obvious; Lionel Richie loves Jamaica, its music and its people. From the get-go of his non-stop, 90 minute concert, the superstar belted out one hit after another in what can only be called a musical extravaganza and won over the festival’s audiences with his abundant talent. Richie’s well made selection of Motown, disco, reggae inspired songs and soft ballads, which spanned his four decade music career, proved to be the right mix for the 80’s loving crowd who started moving to the rhythms of the music from the very first song.

While it was no surprise that the ladies were wooed by Richie’s sotto voce, it was nice to see that the guys were just as taken by the Grammy winner’s concert. Said one gentleman; “I grew up to Richie’s music and to me, Richie went from being a singer songwriter to being a true performer and entertainer. What blew me away was that he kept singing hits that I had forgotten about. His performance was without a doubt the highlight of the festival.”

Lionel Richie enchants the masses at the 2009 Jamaica Jazz & Blues Festival (Photos: Heidi Zech)

One of the most successful male artists in history and a Grammy Award winner, the Tuskegee Alabama born artist started his musical career at university, when he joined the legendary Commodores as a saxophonist, vocalist and songwriter. During the late 1970’s, the group became the most successful act on the Motown label and thanks to Richie, ballads like Easy, Three imes a Lady and Still, which later all became number 1 hits for the Commodores, touched the hearts of fans throughout the world.

In 1982, Richie’s solo debut album secured him a number 3 position on the pop charts and three ‘top 5’ hits, but it was the following album, Can’t Slow Down which catapulted him to superstardom and awarded him a Grammy in 1984 as the album of the year. The same album counted five ‘top 10’ singles including All Night Long and Hello, still some of the favorite love songs played today. Richie continued to make history by co-writing We Are The World with Michael Jackson, which helped to raise millions of dollars for famine relief in Africa. Then, along came another mega hit with Say You, Say Me, a ballad recorded for the 1985 movie White Nights starring Isabella Rossellini. Dancing on the Ceiling was next, he then took a break for the greater part of a decade and resurfaced when Motown released the compilation Back to Front which featured some of Richie’s solo hits and some Commodores material. After all this success, he kept silent for a while due to personal reasons but finally launched his comeback in 1996 with hit albums Louder Than Words, ime, Renaissance, Encore, Just For Us, Coming Home and the live cuts His Greatest Hits and Live in Paris.

Not without reason, the superstar surprised the 2009 Jazz & Blues Festival audience with lots of Commodores material. Said the singer in a pre-show interview: “Well, I’m gonna mix it up a little bit tonight. I will throw in a little bit more Commodores than I normally would do, I think I’ve gotten those listeners who want to hear more of the old stuff cause that’s what they really identify with; the Commodores stuff and the 80’s. And then we will see where it goes from there. I may get on stage and not be able get off the stage.” Hence, Richie worked the stage with his infectious spirit, drawing hit after hit and had patrons feasting their eyes and ears on songs like Se La, Say You Say Me, Hello and Dancing On The Ceiling.


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