Monday, July 28, 2008
MOTOWN'S FAMOUS POET CAPTURES BROOKLYN WITH HITSVILLE MAGIC
The moment I heard Motown legend’s Smokey Robinson smooth tenor voice singing "Ooh Baby, Baby” in Brooklyn last week, I rushed to catch a glimpse of the former Miracles’ lead singer, and co-writer’s concert, and once I arrived, I was in heaven. I had finally seen the man who Bob Dylan named as one of his top three favorite poets live (though I had arrived in the middle of his set due to prior engagements). It had been twenty one years since I had became interested in the history and legacy of Motown Records, and while most of the kids I went to High school with were into Keith Sweat, Al.B Sure!, and Guy, I was grooving to the sounds of “Mickey’s Monkey,” “Crusin’,” “Just To See Her” and “One Heartbeat” (Yes I have an old soul). When my friend Thomas called and reminded me that the Grammy Award winning legend was going to be performing in Brooklyn, I made it my business to attend, and once I a grand time.
When I arrived, Robinson, donned in a white shirt, and black slacks, had just finished performed a bluesy version of “Ooh Baby, Baby” and began to speak to the audience.
“It’s so good to be here” he told the audience after they applauded.
“I mean that.”
Robinson then began to share the story about how he was at Motown’s annual Christmas party, and how Stevie Wonder approached him, about writing some lyrics for a track that he had done, and after he finished imitating Wonder’s voice and movements, he performed The Miracles’ top charting hit “Tears of A Clown” with his female dancers Tracy and Linda, who were donned in blue dresses and silver hats. The vocals were good, but the band had too much computerized sounds, but he compensated during the performance of The Temptations’ classics, “The Way You Do The Things You Do,” Get Ready” which had a strong and funky bass line and “My Girl” where Smokey and his background vocalists performed the group’s trademark Temptation walk and received a standing ovation. Smokey was also impressed with how the crowd sang along to the timeless classic he co-wrote with his late group mate Ronnie White, and dubbed us the Brooklyn Chorus. “They had harmony and sections” Smokey told one of his female vocalist, who decided to jokingly read the crowd. “I hear harmony, but I don’t hear sections” she said.
Shocked, the audience decided to let her know that you don’t disrespect our hometown and borough, and right on cue, the crowd performed the chorus louder and stronger, that had Smokey showing all his pearly whites.
Traci and Linda returned in black tank tops and spandex and joined Robinson while he performed his 1981 hit “Being With You” and though his vocals were slightly weak during the bridge, they improved, when he performed the Spanish version with his other female background vocalist, who added some Latin flavor to the classic with her sexy voice. After he thanked the crowd, Smokey told the audience why all of his songs contained themes of love.
“I’m a love bird” told the audience.
“To me, love is the ever loving subject. Love can make you happy, Love can make you sad. Love can make you feel good. Love can make you feel bad. Love makes you wanna leave. Love wanna make you stay when you should leave."
The audience began to laugh and gagged at the latter statement.
“I’m not trying to put people’s business out there.” he said before he performed a Jazzy soulful rendition of “Who’s Lovin’ You” where he sang the song with soul and passion, followed by “Baby, Baby Don’t Cry” “The Agony and Ecstasy.”, Baby Come Close” and “More Love” where he added Gospel flavor to the song by singing in a stronger tenor, then had he originally recorded it forty years ago.
The crowd jammed to his 1987 Grammy award winning hit “Just to See Her,” where the crowd sang the chorus, while he had a ball dancing to his classic. What made the performance beautiful was the keyboard solo by his keyboardist Demetrius, and the performance ballet performances by the dancers who wore red dresses that were stylish and tasteful. Smokey further demonstrated his vocal ranges while he performed “The Love I Saw Was Just a Mirage," which had a great combo of Pop and Country, courtesy of the guitars, keyboards and strings, but it was the performance of Smokey’s “The Tracks of My Tears” that really had Brooklyn out their seats. Not only did the guitarist adds bits of R&B and Blues, the band played some hot and funky breaks, that blended with while Smokey and the singers sung ‘my smile is my make up I wear since my break up with you.” Smokey had couples of all ages and races dancing to his 1979 classic breakthrough hit “Crusin’” which was the closing number of his concert. What made this performance sexy was him grinding and performing a call and response between him and the background vocalists, as well as the saxophone solo by his current saxophonist.
“This is a feel good concert” he told the audience as he grinded on stage.
He then asked for two audience members to come on stage, to help him lead the sections of the audience to see who could sing the chorus of the song the loudest, and the left side started off strong, but the right start came back stronger, which made it a tide. After the contest, Smokey sang the chorus, and hugged the females before he left the stage.
It was a thrill to finally see Smokey Robinson live last night. He still has his amazing voice, his sexy looks, (he can do without the dreads though) and his ability to make the audience feel young, but it would have been nicer had he performed “One Heartbeat,” “Tell Me Tomorrow,” “Everything You Touch” and “My Girl’s Gone.” He should also performed “Ain’t That Peculiar” a song that he co-wrote and produced for Marvin Gaye. Those songs would have made the show complete, but otherwise, he gave a great performance, and showed the audience that classic love songs will never go out of style. Hoepfully, he will embark on a reunion tour with his former band The Miracles, who celebrated their 51 anniversary this year.
This review is dedicated to the memory of my grandmother Clythia. T. Dorsey, great-aunt Manda Lowery, and good friend and Uncle Phillip Howell.