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Dec. 9, 1986: Lionel Richie performing at the first of his three sold-out shows at the Forum. This photo was published in the Dec. 11, 1986, Los Angeles Times.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Marsha Traeger / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

Dec. 9, 1986: Lionel Richie in concert at the Forum in Inglewood.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Marsha Traeger / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

Dec. 9, 1986: During his concert at the Forum, Lionel Richie combined several of his best known ballads into a medley.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Marsha Traeger / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

Dec. 9, 1986: Lionel Richie onstage at the Forum.

PHOTOGRAPH BY: Marsha Traeger / Los Angeles Times Archive/UCLA

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Lionel Richie and benign rock

Dec. 9, 1986: Lionel Richie performing at the first of his three sold-out shows at the Forum.

In the Dec. 11, 1986 Los Angeles Times Calendar Section, Chris William reported:

Good, good, good, good vibrations. . . . That’s what you think of when you consider a concert by Lionel Richie, master of the happy romantic ballad and the humanistic dance single, the one-man “Up With People” of the ’80s…

Richie promised at the start of Tuesday’s show that “the one ground rule is that anything and everything goes,” but you just know there won’t be any startling surprises with this guy, onstage or off.

It’s hard to recall as benign a singer who’s reached anywhere near such pop plateaus (15 million copies sold of one album alone) in recent years. In a time when America doesn’t seem safe from its own politicians, maybe it needs to feel safe with at least one of its primary entertainers.

Richie and his band came off as the happiest-looking crew this side of the Brady Bunch. Professional cynics shouldn’t be too quick to nay-say all that. Of all the major performers who are required to be that consistently cheery each night, Richie does the most consistent job of being convincing in that role, and who’s to say that happiness is shallow? Certainly anyone who ever fell sway to John Lennon’s “Imagine” would be risking hypocrisy to brand Richie’s new “Se La” or “Love Will Conquer All” as hokey.

Of the two smartest things Richie did during the evening, one was not singing “We Are the World,” though he did offer an eloquent thanksgiving-type spoken rap. The other key move was combining some of his best-known ballads — like “Say You, Say Me” and “Three Times a Lady” — into a medley.

With few of the trademark slow ballads included in their entirety, the mood was mostly surprisingly upbeat, and the staging silly and clever — including a trick that had three band members dangling upside down from the overhead rafters at the climax of “Dancing on the Ceiling.”

Richie doesn’t begin to know the meaning of his favorite word (“outrageous”), but he does know how to wax warm and put on a show, and then some…

The first photo in the above four image gallery was published in the Dec. 11, 1986, Los Angeles Times. All the photos were taken by former staff photographer Marsha Traeger.

scott.harrison@latimes.com

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