×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Smokey Robinson

In his first Los Angeles show in 12 years, Smokey Robinson easily danced past all the pitfalls a comeback tour faces: change in styles, fading talent and a bar set by fans that measures an artist against not only contemporary acts, but also the star's own past. A warm, sweetly nostalgic affair, it served to remind listeners of the man's central place in Motown history and his influence on modern R&B.

With:
Band: Larry Ball, Robert Bowles, Patricia Henley, Robert Henley, Ivory Stone, Tony Lewis, with strings. Reginald Burke, conductor and musical director.

In his first Los Angeles show in 12 years, Smokey Robinson easily danced past all the pitfalls a comeback tour faces: change in styles, fading talent and a bar set by fans that measures an artist against not only contemporary acts, but also the star’s own past. A warm, sweetly nostalgic affair, it served to remind listeners of the man’s central place in Motown history and his influence on modern R&B.

It did not start auspiciously. An orchestra started playing “Send in the Clowns” as two dancers in harlequin masks flailed around in front of the curtain. That would be the only misstep of the evening as it led, thankfully, into “Tears of a Clown”; Smokey sauntered onto stage, dressed elegantly in black pants and a white jacket, and the harlequins turned into go-go dancers.

For the rest of his nearly two-hour performance, Robinson glided from hit to hit: “I Second That Emotion,” “You Really Got a Hold on Me,” “Being With You.” In the tradition of classic Motown shows, there was a medley — the songs that Robinson wrote for the Temptations, including “Get Ready,” “My Girl” and “The Way You Do the Things You Do”–and a tribute to Tin Pan Alley songwriters with an impassioned reading of George and Ira Gershwin’s “Our Love Is Here to Stay.”

Robinson paid additional tribute to his Motown roots with the introduction of label founder Berry Gordy and bringing his songwriting collaborator Marv Tarplin out for a few songs.

But the show wasn’t all about nostalgia, as the three selections he performed from “Intimacy” (Motown), his latest album, showed that Robinson’s slow jams can stand up to modern R&B stars such as Maxwell.

Robinson was a modest, engaging presence onstage. His voice, raspy and tight in the earlier part of the show, grew stronger as the evening went on, easily reaching the high range of his tenor.

For “Ooh Baby, Baby” and “Tracks of My Tears” he broke out the firm vibrato and gospel swoops that made his singing so memorable. On “Bad Girl,” the Miracles’ first record, he used his virtuosity for comic effect, performing all the group’s parts and dance steps.

He might perform the same show any given night, but he has the charisma to make it seem fresh and real. After two encores, he appeared genuinely touched by the audience’s enthusiastic ovations, and fighting back tears, thanked the crowd for a wonderful night. The feeling was mutual.

Smokey Robinson

Universal Amphitheater; 6,251 seats, $71 top

Production: Presented inhouse. Reviewed July 29, 2000.

Cast: Band: Larry Ball, Robert Bowles, Patricia Henley, Robert Henley, Ivory Stone, Tony Lewis, with strings. Reginald Burke, conductor and musical director.

More Music

  • Mandy Moore

    Mandy Moore Opens Up About Her Marriage to Ryan Adams: ‘I Was So Sad’

    Mandy Moore opened up about her marriage to Ryan Adams on Monday’s episode of Marc Maron’s “WTF” podcast. While the interview was taped before the publication of the Feb. 13 New York Times report in which multiple women, including Moore, accuse Adams of sexual misconduct or emotionally abusive behavior, she speaks freely about the “unhealthy dynamic” in [...]

  • Queen + Adam Lambert perform at

    Queen to Perform at Oscars

    Queen will perform at the Academy Awards ceremony on Sunday, the Motion Picture Academy announced on social media today. The move, which is not completely a surprise, comes in the wake of the blockbuster success of “Bohemian Rhapsody,” the biopic about the band and its late singer, Freddie Mercury. The band now performs under the [...]

  • R. Kelly

    Grand Jury Reportedly Convened in R. Kelly Case

    UPDATED: A grand jury has been convened in Cook County, Illinois, in connection with new allegations against singer R. Kelly, CNN reports, citing two sources close to the case. The latest round of accusations against the singer — who has allegations of sexual misconduct against him dating back 25 years, although he has never been [...]

  • 21 Savage

    21 Savage Talks Possible Deportation, Grammys in New Interview

    After being arrested on Feb. 3 for a visa violation, Atlanta-based rapper 21 Savage — whom few people knew was actually a U.K. citizen — spent 10 highly publicized days in ICE detention before being released on Wednesday. The following day, the New York Times sat down with him for an interview in which the [...]

  • SAN FRANCISCO, CA - February 16

    San Francisco Symphony Ushers in Chinese New Year With Glitzy Gala

    As legend has it: among the Chinese Zodiac’s 12 animals, the pig comes last because it was the final one to arrive to a party thrown by the Jade Emperor — lazy sauntering being a characteristic trait of the animal. The folktale was perhaps less fitting this past Saturday evening, as the San Francisco Symphony [...]

  • 50 Cent Power

    NYPD Officer Under Investigation for Allegedly Telling Police to Shoot 50 Cent 'on Sight'

    A New York City precinct commander is under investigation for allegedly telling officers to shoot rapper 50 Cent on sight, a police rep confirmed to Variety on Sunday. “The matter is under internal review,” an NYPD rep said, declining to answer further questions. Deputy Inspector Emanuel Gonzalez is accused of telling officers during a June 7 roll [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content