Motown Legend Smokey Robinson brought his incredible songbook, his great passion for performing and some wonderful personal stories to The McCallum Theatre on October 27 in a very "Up Close And Personal" concert, and so much more. The MCallum Theatre has proven itself, once again, a consummate concert venue --- and it was the perfect venue to showcase these great hit songs and some great conversation with this singer-songwriter, record producer and former record executive -- a man who helped change the face of the music industry in the mid 20th century. Robinson started the evening by saying "he was a Virgin tonight" (referring to the whole Q. and A. format of the evening) and asked the audience to be gentle. Audience members had the opportunity to put their names in a basket on their way in to the theatre and, if their names were drawn during the performance, the opportunity to ask any personal question they wanted to ask. It proved to be a great format and a very entertaining evening.
Smokey Robinson, at 72, is no longer the singer he was – his voice has lost some of it's strength and some of its polish. But that didn't matter at all. He sings with as much passion and intention as he ever did and he firmly held the audience in his hand from note one. He is a charmer – funny and flirtatious -- and was fantastic in answering questions and bantering with the crowd. He has definitive soul. And he bares it all.
The audience members who asked the questions also had the opportunity to request the next song and the impromptu feel of the concert was fresh and fun. "Tracks Of My Tears" brought the audience to their feet for the first of several standing ovations for the evening. He sang hit after hit – but I think he scored the biggest with two renditions of standards that were NOT from his personal songbook -- "Speak Low" and "Our Love Is Here To Stay" which were both hauntingly beautiful and a master class in lyric interpretation.
Before he sang "My Girl" an audience member asked if he was sorry The Temptations recorded that song instead of he, himself, since it became such a big hit.. He explained that it has become his "international anthem" but, had he not written it specifically for The Temptations, it never would have been written all – "so,no ". He had the audience sing along with the chorus of "My Girl" as he did in several other songs throughout the evening, which was both fun for the eager crowd and also cleverly masked notes and pitches that were no longer squarely in his range.
Before he was through, Robinson delighted the near sold out crowd with "You've Really Got A Hold On Me", "More Love" and "Who's Lovin' you Now", to name a few. The beauty of Smokey Robinson is that he is "genuine" and this intimate concert format fit him like a glove. It was one of those evenings that could have gone on and on and no one would have minded the hour.
He received yet another standing ovation as he walked off the stage after his final song – dedicated to his "little brother" Michael Jackson – and the audience applauded and applauded and waited and waited for him to return for an encore – something that is generally standard formula of every concert artist – but he never did. Unlike some other concerts I have attended – I truly wish he had.
The McCallum Theatre is celebrating its 25th Anniversary Season with a powerhouse schedule of concerts, musicals and theatrical events. For more information on their season visit: www.mccallumtheatre.org