By “us”, of course, he means the mega-artists who made their names in the 1970s and 1980s and still hold audiences rapt.
It’s a category in which Richie, 68 years old but looking and sounding at least 20 years younger, staked a dominant claim from the moment he hit the stage.
Bouncing out into the chilly, early-evening, air with his arms outstretched to welcome the crowd, he’s sheathed in a white, spangly, jumpsuit that could have been in his wardrobe since his first hits with The Commodores way back in 1974.
Then it’s over to the piano and straight into the smooth, Sunday morning groove of Easy – one of the biggest of those singles.
The crowd, well-lubricated from early evening picnics in Henry VIII’s back garden at Hampton Court Palace, go bananas.
Richie’s roots are in hard funk; credentials underlined by a stonking version of the nearinstrumental chant Brick House, accompanied by suitably cheesy 1970s disco back projections. But it’s the big vocal hits, a litany of melodies as rich as any tapestry in the palace’s state rooms, that the crowd want to hear.
Richie offers each of them up like a bejewelled treasure: from a sublime Stuck On You through Sail On, to Say You, Say Me and Three Times A Lady.
The inevitable Hello is performed with stagey but effective poignancy under the projection of a shimmering mirror-ball.
He switches from piano to front of stage, roving back and forth with a line in betweensong patter that is practised but very funny.
“A guy of about 275lb came up to me backstage,” he announces, wide-eyed,
“and said, ‘I’ve made love to you hundreds of times’. I said, ‘Well that’s a lie’. Then his wife piped up, ‘No, he’s telling the truth – I was there!’”
The crowd roar their laughter and approval.
Backed with slick but soulful skill by what looks like an off-duty heavy metal band – they even throw in a few bars of Van Halen’s Jump during one song – Richie doesn’t dodge a single note, his engaging tenor voice in remarkable shape.
Finishing on a party-time high with Dancing On The Ceiling and the timelessly uplifting All Night Long, with the crowd singing along to every note, Richie bids a fond goodnight and disappears stage right.
A long-reigning king had returned to his temporary palace.