By Ray Rahman
March 15, 2012 at 05:04 PM EDT
Tim Mosenfelder/Getty Images
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All sorts of people like The-Dream: rap people, pop people, contemporary-R&B people, bearded people. But apparently not ceiling-dancing people.

In the festival’s amusing tradition of assembling strange lineups that don’t exist in real life, this year’s Billboard showcase enlisted none other than Terius Nash to warm up the stage for the evening’s main attraction, Lionel Richie.

And it was kinda awkward!

Unsurprisingly, the venue (at the new Moody Theater, which Jay-Z also played this week) filled out early in the evening with people pumped to see Richie —  and only Richie. Luckily, The-Dream stuck it out and put up a solid show anyway, jumping around in his glowing Back to the Future Part II sneakers and delivering favorites like “Shawty” and the slinky new single “Roc.”

Still, this was an audience the “Love King” just couldn’t seduce. Stoic and (in at least one case) asleep, the older-skewing crowd was so unimpressed that The-Dream eventually just asked, “A lot of y’all don’t know who the f— I am, huh?” He followed that up with a good-natured smile and a minor undressing, as if maybe it was his shirt that was preventing people from recognizing him.

It didn’t help much, but he did finally win the house over at the end of his run when he gushed, “I’m totally delighted to open up for one of our musical heroes.”

A short intermission later, it was Lionel o’clock (12:30 a.m. CST). “Hello?” Richie teased from off stage as he opened his set with that song‘s classic chorus. Judging by how the crowd erupted, he could’ve just left the venue right then and there and nobody would’ve been mad.

Thankfully, he ended up following through with an insanely entertaining and energetic show. Beaming and improbably lithe, the skinny-pants-ed 62-year-old gave everyone what they wanted (“Easy,” “All Night Long”), plus some things they didn’t know they were allowed to want (a whizzed-up version of “Dancing On the Ceiling” that blended in the riff from Van Halen’s “Jump”).

“All of my friends are backstage,” Richie confessed during a pause, looking genuinely thrilled. “I can see The-Dream backstage,” he added. “But I can’t see The-Dream in L.A. How about that!”

Judging by his upcoming duets album Tuskegee (out March 26) and next month’s crowded ACM extravaganza (airs on CMT April 13), you get the sense that the current Voice coach really does love hanging out with his pals. He even brought one with him to Austin: None other than Kenny Rogers popped out of the wings to join Richie on a crowd-pleasing duet of “Lady.”

And somehow, that still wasn’t the end of the night. The storied sexagenarian kept on going, but I retired for the evening at 1:45 .a.m, unable to keep up. Who knows, maybe the man’s still on that stage now, surrounded by all his friends — and, of course, The-Dream.


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