Legendary singer, songwriter, and producer Smokey Robinson treated a sold-out crowd at Pechanga Resort & Casino to an old-school Motown-style revue Friday night.
Deftly mixing some of his biggest Miracle hits along with a few solo career gems and a handful of newer tracks, Smokey reminded all of us why he’s firmly placed in both the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and the the Songwriter’s Hall of Fame.
From “You Really Got A Hold On Me” (which the Beatles covered back in ‘64) to “Tears of a Clown” to “Tracks of My Tears,” Smokey unleashed hit after Motown-era hit on the welcoming Showroom Theater audience.
“I grew up at Motown — I was there from the beginning,” Smokey said.
Along with Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, Smokey was one of the principal architects of what we all recognize as the “Motown Sound.”
Robinson, in his gorgeous lavender suit and purple tie (in contrast to his entire band — the men in black suits and women in black dresses) then took us down memory lane, giving an oral history of the Detroit music scene in the early 1960s, singing a medley of Temptations songs – “The Way You Do The Things You Do,” “Get Ready,” and “My Girl.”
The crowd sang each lyric as if it was second nature.
Smokey wrote each of these classics.
Of course, if Smokey and his amazing band had performed all of the hits he produced in his 50+ years in the music business, Friday night’s concert would have lasted two days instead of two hours.
Besides the enormity of his one-of-a-kind song catalogue, two things stood out above everything else this evening: one, Smokey still has one of the amazing voices in the music industry, and two, Mr. Robinson is all about love and happiness.
While he may not move as spryly as he once did as a Miracle (he did, in fact, turn 72 earlier this year), “Smoke” (as Stevie Wonder affectionately calls him) has lost none of his vocal prowess.
His warm timbre, perfect pitch, and sincerity, all gift-wrapped in his emotional soprano, led the way the entire evening as if a beacon of light.
To these ears, Smokey Robinson’s singing talents sits him comfortably in the same room as Al Green, Paul McCartney, and Michael Jackson as one of the greatest voices in pop music.
His voice was the soul of his performance.
And while Smokey’s “soul” is his singing, his true essence is gentle, romantic love.
“It’s Friday night in Temecula!” shouted Smokey. “We came here to have a good time. We came here to be intimate…to get closer.”
Yes, the evening was filled with romance at every turn, but perhaps the highlight was the concert’s finale, Smokey’s huge hit from 1979 – “Cruisin.” His simple – yet profound – lyrics sum everything up: “The music is played for love; Cruisin’ is made for love; I love it when we’re cruisin’ together.”
Chris Baptiste is a local writer and regular contributor to SWRNN.