A Smokey Robinson show should never be attended alone. If ever there was a show worthy of a night out on the town with a significant other, Smokey’s two-hour set of classic love songs fit the bill perfectly.
Robinson and his eight-piece band of musicians and back-up singers played the BankAtlantic Center on March 5. The show started a little after 8 p.m. with Smokey’s unmistakable falsetto.
The Sinatra Theater wasn’t packed to capacity on this Wednesday night, but those who attended were treated to something special. Smokey’s voice managed to both boom and sooth in the cavernous arena, a testament to both his remarkable talent and vocal conditioning.
The crowd seemed to invigorate the 67-year-old crooner. Robinson developed a relationship with the audience, sharing stories, cracking jokes and asking for their participation. The Sinatra Theater proved to be a good venue, but it was a little too impersonal. From my seat in the third level I could see Smokey, but I couldn’t really see him. His voice reached all levels, but a more intimate venue would have made the show more of an experience rather than just a show.
That being said, whether sung in an arena or a concert hall, songs like “Ooo Baby Baby” and “The Tracks of My Tears” retained all of their power and emotion. “Ooo Baby Baby” brought patrons out of their seats and into the aisle to slow-groove to Smokey’s hyper emotional vocals.
Midway through the show, Robinson made a point to acknowledge two very young fans in the front row. The young ones knew every word to the Robinson-penned “My Girl,” leading Smokey to ponder the longevity of love songs and his music in particular. Smoke, as friends call him, said he came to the conclusion long ago that he is in love with love.
“People ask me, ‘Why you always singing about love? There’s so much other stuff going on, wars, pain. I told him because wars can be resolved, other things pass on, but love will always be here,” Robinson opined.
Robinson is definitely a legend in his own time. His stagecraft is second to none, dancing across the stage while effortlessly harmonizing with his excellent backup troupe. Robinson and company were also joined on stage by a 12-piece string section, recruited from the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra. They had just received the music the morning of the show, but blended beautifully with Smokey and his band.
Robinson performed classics from his own catalog and songs he had written for his Motown label mates. He told stories about his days with the most prolific record label and production company in music history.
Robinson also does a pretty accurate Stevie Wonder impersonation. The impersonation segued into a beautiful rendition of “Tears of Clown,” a collaboration between Wonder and Robinson and the Miracles.
As the show concluded and Robinson began to leave the stage, something wasn’t right. The crowd began to get restless and mumbles and murmurs spread through the arena.
“Can he really leave without performing ‘Cruising’?”
Robinson saved the classic R&B ode to driving, jamming and loving until the very last minute of the show. When he returned to the stage, the audience erupted as the familiar opening guitar licks of the tune were played.
Everyone who was with someone held hands or sang while staring into each other’s eyes.
I simply observed, sitting alone, wishing I had requested two tickets. I left the show feeling like I had seen something special.
I guess it would be similar to the feeling world travelers experience upon first seeing China’s Great Wall or Giza’s monuments to life and death in the shape of the imposing pyramids.
Smokey Robinson certainly is a legend, but be forewarned; attending his show by yourself will leave you feeling a tad lonely, a little embarrassed and ready to tell someone, anyone, that you are desperately in love with love.