Two years after its release outside the U.S. and five months after the appearance of Lionel Richie's modestly selling seventh studio album, Just for You, Island Records belatedly presents an abridged domestic version of Richie's 2002 live album, Encore, recorded in May 2001 at Wembley Arena in England. The international version of the disc had 16 tracks, among them "Tender Heart" and "Don't Stop the Music," both from Renaissance, Richie's sixth studio album, which he was promoting at the time. They have been excised from the American version of Encore, as have the international version's final two tracks, "Goodbye" and "To Love a Woman," both duets with Enrique Iglesias. Remaining are 12 performances of Richie hits from the 1980s along with two Commodores hits of the '70s, "Brick House" and "Three Times a Lady." Early on, Richie says he will be playing songs old and new, but the listener to the U.S. edition of the album will wonder where the new songs are. Richie is an engaging cheerleader of a frontman, endlessly encouraging his already enthusiastic listeners with such interjections as "C'mon!," "Yeah!," and "Let's go!" The audience is content to sing along on the familiar material, with or without Richie to join them. ("You don't need me," he declares at one point.) No doubt this show was more enjoyable for Richie fans in the arena than it will be for those listening at home who, for example, won't know what Richie is talking about when he says during "All Night Long (All Night)," "Man, you can't dance!" This is a performer who is playing much more to the audience in front of him than to the one that will hear the concert later on disc. Even leaving aside the truncated form of this version of the collection, this is not a memorable live album.
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AllMusic Review by William Ruhlmann