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WIND BACK WEDNESDAY: DANCING CHEEK TO CHEEK


Lionel Richie is here later this year. He will offer an old school show. But will it have the golden moment of this show a decade ago?

Wind Back Wednesday flashes at you from Manchester, 2007.

DANCING CHEEK TO CHEEK

Forget the white cliffs of Dover. For those lucky enough to be in the room, the abiding symbol of England for many years to come now will be the white cheeks of Manchester.

It will be a story we will tell grandchildren instead of Harry Potter, a tale which may well become mythic, if not heroic.

Picture the scene: the MEN arena in Manchester, capacity around 15,000, is full and has been bouncing for two hours, Tia Maria-and-Coke cups and plastic beer glasses sloshing in unison.

Ooh yeah, they're up for it. But this isn't a bunch of wild youth on the turps - there are no hoodies here, no jeans exposing acres of underwear.

Though there are scatterings of your Gen Ys, most of this audience have been with Lionel Richie since Truly in 1982.

During the ballads, couples hold hands and sing to each other. During the up-tempo numbers, there is a fair bit of slightly out of time hip shaking going on. Yeah baby.

On stage, Richie has been providing a show packed with more familiar numbers than your two times tables (All Night Long, Say You Say Me, Hello etc) and more cheese than a certain Monty Python sketch.

Cheesy? Despite telling me in an interview prior to the show that these days he lets the audience do a lot of singing ("it's their show and I'm happy with that") he affects shock and amazement when they do just that. "Man-ches-TAR," he declares, wide-eyed. "You're blowing my mind!"

Then, midway through the set he announces that he will do a solo section, prompting at least two of the band to do one of those cartoon-like "woohoo, we're free!" bolts off the stage, practically tripping over each other.

The rest follow, except for the very large keyboard player whose face registers a fixed look of crushed disappointment as he stands there refusing to go.

Richie cajoles him, promising him he is valued, that he will be needed later in the show, that he is loved. Finally, Mr Keyboards grabs a giant wad of tissues, holds it to his "tear-stained" face and exits stage left.

But wait. There's more. After happily declaring that this audience is "out of control", Richie explains that wherever he goes around the world he tells people that the Manchester shows are always the best, that he has a special bond with this city, that he knows them intimately.

We know this to be true because he refers to the inhabitants of this city as Manchesterians.

Amidst these high jinks and vaudevillian routines some things are as normal.

Sure, his voice was never one of the great ones of soul and the songs which made his name and his fortune (the fortune which enabled him to share with us the joys of his daughter Nicole Richie we must remember) are not exactly top drawer either if we are to be brutal.

But Richie is working very, very hard like the trouper he is. So hard that he sweats like one of those blokes in the Lynx deodorant ads, the perspiration running from his tightly curled black hair, down his face, past his diamond-encrusted crucifix, to his shiny acrylic shirt.

And look, there is security front and side of stage like any concert. True, they are lightly scattered and relaxed, but then no one is expecting a riot.

Consequently no one notices when during the encore one woman scales the barrier and climbs onto the stage. She's carrying nothing. She asks for nothing. She's just very pleased. Seeing her up there, Richie heads towards her, smiling.

You can imagine him thinking, aha here's a chance to have a little dance maybe, sneak a little kiss on to her cheek, play the charmer.

But then that smile freezes and he promptly turns on his heels, still singing, and moves very far away, very quickly.

Why? The thirtysomething woman has turned her back on the audience, dropped her jeans and panties and begun wiggling her bare white backside. There's no aggression; this isn't a protest, it's a celebration. The Manchesterian way.

For what seems an eternity until security arrive, we in the audience are doubled over in paroxysms of laughter. Even as the security men escort her off however, the fun doesn't stop.

They don't make her pull her pants up, merely walk beside her, as she - with clothes constricted around her ankles - waddles off.

Don't mock her though. Sure, she's just dropped her daks in public and shaken her pearly white derriere in our faces (and presumably thousands of digital cameras) but she's still got her pride.

That's why as she exits she puts her hands demurely in front of her crotch.

As Lionel Richie would no doubt have said, dignity, always dignity.

#LionelRichie #WindBackWednesday

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