Smokey Robinson, live at the Beacon Theater
Smokey Robinson wrote "My Girl," along with fellow Miracle, Ronnie White. If he did absolutely nothing else, he would be venerated (and rich!) for creating that quintessential Motown song for The Temptations. But he did so much more, both writing and performing. That splendidly smooth, romantic voice was why I went to see him at the Beacon last week.
And, in a sense, I wasn't disappointed. Backed up by a small, tight band, Smokey in a gleaming white suit delivered on the hits he sang. "I Second That Emotion" and "You Really Got a Hold on Me" set just the right opening tone . "Ooh Baby Baby" had a strange slow pace at the beginning, but in that unmistakeable chorus you could hear how strong Smokey's voice still is at 74. Then he gave us a taste of some of the songs he did for other Motown artists, starting with "My Girl," then two other Temps's songs: "The Way You Do the Things You Do," and "Get Ready." He finished that set with "Tears of a Clown." I didn't know that Smokey wrote only the lyrics. The music: Stevie Wonder!
So we were off to a good start. But then ... the hits stopped coming, plus we got a lot of Las Vegas lounge act patter. And the songs we did get were from Smokey's solo period, all less known, less loved. He did get us back in the groove with a show stopping "Tracks of my Tears," but then the wheels came off.
Stars need a strong ego, and Smokey is no exception. For the last 20 minutes of the concert we were treated to "Cruisin'," his only #1 song as a solo artist, co-written with another Miracle Marv Tarplin. Unfortunately it wasn't just the song. We had to endure two audience members dragged, literally, onto the stage to lead a left side versus right side sing-off of the chorus. I sat down halfway through and never got up again.
I was thinking, ok, at least that's over, lets get back to the hits. Wrong, that was it! No encore. "Cruisin'" had been the encore! The lights came up, and we were headed to the exits.
Maybe these great old acts like Smokey don't want to just recycle their old hits, but that's what we want. At the Beacon a year ago the Beach Boys gave us over 40 of their greatest songs. From Smokey we got less than 20 and not all of them hits. That's a mistake, not a miracle.
Grade: B- (to be generous!)
Other famous songs Smokey wrote and who recorded them:
The Temptations: "Since I Lost My Baby"