Sunday’s show at the Sprint Center was billed as an All the Hits Tour, an easy peg for two artists who arrived with truckloads of songs that were Top 10 hits.
The show was billed as a co-headlining tour, and rightfully so: Mariah Carey and Lionel Richie, in their own eras, were as popular as any other band or artist on the charts. If you count Richie’s time with the Commodores, he and Carey put more than four dozen songs into the Top 10 charts.
Carey’s one-hour set preceded Richie’s and for a reason. Hers was a more of an opener, more reserved, though it provided plenty of visual stimulation. She arrived on a throne, overplaying, with a tongue in cheek, her diva personae, as she and her band — five musicians and three background vocalists — barged into “I’m That Chick,” a defiant and rousing pop-dance/disco anthem from her 2008 album, “E=MC2.”
When that was done, she expressed thrill at being in Kansas — this was her first performance in Kansas City ever, if not in decades — a petty geographical mistake she would later correct. Then, after some clunky choreography with one of her dancers, she and her band bolted into “Heartbreaker,” after a few bars of Diana Ross’ “Sweet Love Hangover.”
Never miss a local story.
Carey re-navigated herself back into “Missouri “as she introduced “Touch My Body,” another taut and funky disco pop song. She followed that with “I Know What You Want,” which featured a recorded video performance by her duet partner Busta Rhymes.
She got a bit of diva treatment before “My All”: Two attendants appeared on stage, one to fan her, the other to brush up her makeup. It was all campy and low-grade, self-effacing humor.
Before “Always Be My Baby,” she summoned to the stage her 6-year-old twins, who added a few coats of cuteness to the mood, especially when one of them said howdy to Kansas City.
Carey is in her later 40s and three decades into a music career but she still has a voice that can impress, as it did during “One Sweet Day,” her Boyz II Men collaboration, which she sang with guest vocalist Trey Lorenz.
He followed that with a cover of “All I Do Is Think About You,” a hit for Tammi Terrell, while Carey made one of her many wardrobe changes. (He also delivered the obligatory praise/comment about Kansas City barbecue before that number.)
Late in her set, Carey flashed some of her signature vocal gymnastics during “Vision of Love,” as if to get her card punched at the melisma bureau.
She closed with “We Belong Together,” which provided some doo-wop relief, then “Hero,” her keep-the-chin-up ballad that still packs a redemptive punch.
Richie, who turned 68 in June, made it apparent from the start of his 115-minute set that the mood would be different. Like a college cheerleader, all night he urged and egged-on the crowd of about 13,000 into singing and dancing, though he kindly and mildly ridiculed some of the dance moves he witnessed.
After “Dancing on the Ceiling,” he said to some folks up front, “I don’t know what I just saw, but I haven’t seen that since 1977. You ought to be ashamed of yourselves.”
Sunday’s show was rescheduled from early this spring so Richie could recover from a knee injury. Before “Three Times a Lady,” Richie acknowledged a woman bearing a sign that said she was pleased with the delay: In the early spring, she was still going through chemotherapy; as of Sunday, she was in remission.
That prompted a short inspirational speech from Richie about the curative power of being among a large crowd of people celebrating music and songs.
There was plenty of that spirit in the place all night long, especially during the rest of the Commodores tribute, which included “Sail On,” a medley of “Fancy Dancer,” “Sweet Love” and “Lady (You Bring Me Up),” then full versions of “Just to Be Close to You” and “Brick House,” which was appended by a bit of “Fire.”
Richie showed up with some shtick in his pockets, a few corny one-liners and dad jokes he delivers at every show, including one about meeting a guy backstage who professed to having had sex with Lionel, meaning accompanied by some of Richie’s music. Before “Three Times a Lady,” he declared that it was a song that either got you engaged, married or in trouble.
Otherwise, he was the consummate energetic ringleader, keeping the mood percolating before discharging yet another hit that everyone in the place had heard many dozens of times, songs that revive memories that go back decades.
After two of his biggest solo hits, “Hello” and the joyous “Say You, Say Me,” he closed his set with “We Are the World,” the anthem he co-wrote more than 30 years ago with Michael Jackson to raise money for hunger relief in Africa.
Some people in the crowd it appeared were either toddlers or not yet born when the song and video hit MTV in 1985, yet they sang along feverishly.
As much as anything, that was the point of this tour from two headliners who thrived in different decades but produced music that rendered the same benefits and results: Songs that have survived and resonated and now arouse deep, warm sentiments.
Lionel Richie: Easy/My Love; Running With the Night; Penny Lover; Truly; You Are; Stuck On You; Dancing on the Ceiling; Three Times a Lady; Sail On; Fancy Dancer/Sweet Love/Lady; Just to Be Close to You; Brick House/Fire; Hello; Say You, Say Me; We Are the World. Encore: All Night Long (All Night).
Mariah Carey: I’m That Chick; Heartbreaker; Touch My Body; I Know What You Want; My All; Always Be My Baby; Don’t Forget About Us; One Sweet Day; All I Do Is Think About You; It’s Like That; Vision of Love; We Belong Together; Hero.