CONCERT REVIEW: Smokey Robinson
Casino Regina Show Lounge
Remarkable. Phenomenal. Incredible. Wonderful. Amazing. Sensational.
Pick any of these adjectives and it still wouldn’t do justice to the performance of Smokey Robinson at the Casino Regina Show Lounge on Thursday night.
In the Queen City for two shows at the venue, the 73-year-old Robinson showed exactly why he’s a legend in the music business.
As a singer, he has a vibrato voice that is as magnificent today as it was when he broke into the business in the mid-1950s.
As a songwriter, his catalogue of material contains hit after hit after hit, many of which have easily stood the test of time.
And as an entertainer, Robinson knows his way around a stage and how to meet the high expectations of his fans.
His current show is titled Smokey Robinson: Up Close And Personal and the title isn’t misleading in any way. Fans were given the opportunity before the show to submit questions to Robinson and that’s what drove Thursday’s performance — he would pick a question out of a basket, allow the fan to ask their question, and then he would weave the audience into his life and career with revealing answers.
Here’s a few of the topics that came up:
■ “What is your favourite song?”
“I don’t have answer for that,” said Robinson. “I grew up in Detroit in a home that was filled with music, always music … and I grew up listening to the Great American songbook. The first voice I really remember hearing was that of Sarah Vaughn.”
Robinson’s salute to the great jazz singer was his version of the George and Ira Gershwin classic, Love Is Here To Stay. It was sweet and tender and absolutely lovely.
■ “What inspired Tracks of My Tears?”
Robinson said he got a lot of his inspiration from guitarist Marv Tarplin, who provided the melody for a song. Robinson struggled to find a lyric to fit the melody. He did have a few lines — “So take a good look at my face/You’ll see my smile looks out of place/If you look closer, it’s easy to trace/That you’re not here anymore.” The last line of the stanza just didn’t work and after struggling a suitable replacement, Robinson found the perfect inspiration in an unusual place.
“I was shaving and looking at myself in the mirror when I thought about someone crying so much that it left tracks on their face. That’s when it became, ‘If you look closer, it’s easy to trace/The tracks of my tears.’ ”
■ “Why didn’t Let Me Be The Clock become a hit?”
“It suffered because of the success of Cruisin’ — that’s all the radio stations played for a year. It was so successful that the next record just couldn’t follow it.”
The woman who asked the question got more than just an answer from Robinson. He sang a few lines of the song a cappella and with her still clutching her microphone, allowed her to sing a few lines by herself before finishing the chorus as a duet. Talk about making a memory for a fan.
■ A couple of fans, including local musician Jack Semple, asked, “Do you have any advice for aspiring songwriters?”
“Yes, when you sit down to write a song, write a song. Just write a song. Don’t be concerned about whether or not it’s going to be a hit,” said Robinson, who added he doesn’t have a specific formula when he’s writing a song.
■ His retirement from performing in 1972, when he settled in as part of Motown’s management team, didn’t got particularly well. In fact, the day-to-day grind left Robinson “miserable.” He thought no one else knew how he felt but Motown founder Berry Gordy knew better and decided to deal with the problem directly.
“He came into my office one day and told me to sit down because he had something to tell me. He said, ‘Get a band, get in the studio, make a record and get the f*** out of here.’ And that’s how A Quiet Storm came to be.”
The combination of music and stories from Robinson made for an entertaining and memorable evening.
1. Being With You
2. Love Is Here To Stay
3. Tracks Of My Tears
4. My Girl
5. Tears Of A Clown
6. You Really Got A Hold On Me
7. Ooo baby baby
8. More Love
9. A Quiet Storm