October 19, 2015 Smokey Robinson Magical NYCB Theatre at Westbury, NY 10-11-15
Smokey Robinson, just hearing the name invokes so many memories for generations of music lovers. Inspired by his endless array of hit songs that have helped create the soundtracks of so many’s lives, Robinson’s career has spanned over five decades now. With countless well-deserved accolades to his credit, Robinson’s brief retirement in performing during the early 1970s to concentrate on his role as Vice President of Motown Records, came to a close in the latter part of the decade when he embarked on his solo career. Originally the founding of The Miracles, all these years later he is known as one of the most legendary songwriter, performer, and producer in the Motown world of R & B.
Still extremely active in the new millennium, Robinson proves that he still has the magic to wow audiences each time he performs. In fact, as late as 2014, Robinson released a new solo record entitled Smokey & Friends, and to date it is his second more successful solo effort. Now in 2015 he continues to tour around North America and on the cool Autumn evening of Sunday October 11th arrived at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury in New York. Making his first visit back to the theater since April 20, 2012, the room was was filled to almost full capacity with an extremely diverse fan base excited to see the show.
Joining Robinson for the performance was Robert “Boogie” Bowles (Guitar), Gary Foote (Bass), Tony Lewis (Drums), Demetrious Pappas (Keyboards), S’Vone Ringo (Keyboards), Kenny Gioffre (Sax/Flute), Serena Henry (Vocals), Amon Bourne (Vocals), Tracie Burton (Dancer) and Katie Miller (Dancer), ready to show Long Island a good time. Setup in the theater’s full-round configuration with a rotating stage, the musicians walk out and took their places off of the platform, leaving the entire spotlight open for Robinson to perform, occasionally accompanied by the dancers.
Starting the evening off with a very heavy R&B beat, Pappas joins his hands over his head and starts clapping, encouraging the audience to join in sync with the beat. The two female dancers soon came on stage dressed in identical 1970s themed outfits including spandex pants. As the ladies danced to the beat,Robinson himself arrived from the isle to cheering and enthusiastic fans as he even shook a few hands on the way to the stage. Adorned in a white suit, with a white collared shirt, white shoes and a turquoise/green tie and lapel, he was looking sharp as he began to dance. Taking his microphone, Robinson kicked the party off with “Being With You” from 1981’s release by the same name. Midway through the rendition Henry joined Robinson on stage for an intimate embrace, which they held as they sung a full verse of the song together.
Wasting no time, they played “I Second That Emotion” from Smokin’ released in 1967 with The Miracles, and the audience sang along with Robinson without even a nudge. The audience wanted Robinson to know they knew the classic cut which provoked “We got some good singers here tonight! Let’s sing another one!” which flowed into “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me” from 1962’s The Fabulous Miracles. With the audience cheering away, the dancers came back on stage dancing again to the beat of the next song, this time dressed in light gray raincoats, black thigh high boots and holding dome umbrellas. Complimented by the stage show around him, Robinson sang 1975’s “Quiet Storm” which was highlighted by Gioffre beautiful playing of the flute, and soon after, the dancers again joined Robinson on stage for a short choreographed dance.
The cheers were almost deafening as the song “Ooo Baby Baby” began, off of 1965 The Miracles album Going To A Go-Go. Singing the track slow and smoothly, one could even hear the bursts of comments come from some female audience members before Robinson held the last note of the song out before everyone was up on their feet screaming for more. After letting them carry on for a few minutes Robinson playfully says, “I should have played that song first!” Standing there smiling ear to ear he said, “You have New Yorked me once again, I love you so much man! You’ve been doing this to me since 1958!! It’s always so good to be here and we came to have some fun!” Showing everyone was there to have a good time, the audience continued to cheer before Robinson tempted them a few more times, then said, “We are gonna Boogie!” He stripped off his coat and tie, unbuttoned a few buttons from his shirt as he blasted off into some very thrilling dance moves.
Keeping the energy flowing with plenty of personal conversation in between the music Robinson said, “On December 31, 2009 we ended a year long celebration of the 50th anniversary of Motown Records, even though Motown started about 30 years before I was born” Joining the audience for a laugh he then said, “No, I grew up in Motown, I was there pretty much on day three!” Taking a few minutes to talk about some of Motown’s history and the many interviews he has done over the years, he admitted he is often asked this one similar question, “”What do you do when you hear your songs being played on the radio?” Curious what Robinson’s response would be the audience applauded loudly the moment he said ” I turn it up!”
Engaging all, he he continued to talk about Motown and many of the artists he had worked with over the years, how he “grew up with them” and how in the early years they would all tour together since there would be several artists on one billing. He then got in depth about his relationship with The Temptations, even taking a moment to entertain the audience with a classic Temptation dance. He spoke about how one night while on one of the many multi-billing tours he had driving duty. While driving to the next town in the dark of night he wrote a song and soon after he recorded it with The Temptations, it became their first hit! This was the perfect segue into “The Way You Do The Things You Do” from 1964’s Meet The Temptations. Once the song was complete, he spoke of his relationship with the Temptations for a few more moments before going into “Get Ready” from 1966’s Getting’ Ready and “My Girl” from 1964’s The Temptations Sing Smokey where everyone sang along in delight. Thrilled by the reaction Robinson said, “Everybody was singing that time! I love it!” Inspired, he asked that the house lights be brought up so he could see everyone and asks the audience to join him one more time where everyone joined in again. Robinson then walks over to one section of the theater and asks a very young girl to come up on stage. With permission from her parents the seven year old girl, holding her stuffed animal, walked onto the stage with the singer where he said “She new all the words to that song! Do you know what that means? I can keep coming back here and playing till 2037!” With the audience on their feet, he gave the young girl a big hug, then hugged her Mom and Dad as well for one of the most heartwarming moments of the set.
Robinson took the time to introduce each member of the band, but as he introduced Lewis on drums, Lewis held up a pair of three-foot long drumsticks. Robinson burst into laughter and said, “You got a big stick brother!” With laughter throughout the theater, he continued to say, “These people are my family as you can see!” Speaking of the importance of all types of families, that led him into talking about his relationship with Stevie Wonder to which he said, “Stevie is my brother.” This led into another story of about how many years back while at a Motown Christmas party he was talking with Wonder about a track that Wonder had written, but it needed something more. Receptive, Wonder gave a copy of it to Robinson to take home with him and Robinson stated, “This is what we came up with” going into the amazing “Tears Of A Clown.” Having all swaying along, the two dancers joined Robinson on stage again for a choreographed dance, but this time they were dressed as Mimes.
He then talked about his upbringing saying, “I grew up in a home that was always playing music, my two older sisters and my Mom playing 78’s” He then jokes about what 78’s were before going through the timeline of 45’s, 8-Track tapes, cassettes, compact discs, and now digital format. Robinson confessed, “No matter what you played it on, the music is timeless. This next song is from Timeless Love.” Mixing it up, they went into a song Robinson recorded in 2006, “Fly Me To The Moon,” originally performed by Kaye Ballard . When the song concluded Robinson said “We have a current CD out called Smokey Robinson and Friends” and he named a list of the many artists that joined him on this recording before admitting “Time flies when your having fun and truthfully at this point in my life I’m having the time of my life!”
Peaking the ladies interest, Robinson dedicated the song “That Place” to them from his 2009 album Time Flies When You’re Having Fun, and they could not get enough. Inviting his dancers back onto to the stage, this time dressed as Senoritas, they joined Robinson for “Just To See Her” from 1987’s One Heartbeat. The dancers departed once more as the band went into the 1965 song “Tracks Of My Tears” to which everyone sang to each word and once again gave Robinson a full standing ovation.
Closing out the night, they played “Crusin” from 1979’s Where There’s Smoke… and as the song came to a close Robinson said, “Everyone it’s so nice that you came out this evening, doesn’t it feel good? We are going to have a feel good contest! We are splitting this place in half and I want to hear who is having more fun!” He then proceeded to chose two volunteers from the audience to join him on stage, one person from each side of the theater. Two ladies joined him on stage and encouraged the sides they represented to sing as loud as they could to the line “I love it when we’re crusin’ together.” Robinson and the volunteers did several battle rounds but then had the whole audience join together at the end. The volume was deafening and it was extremely obvious that everyone, including Robinson, felt very good. Walking off stage for the night, Robinson shook hands and even hugging audience members on his way to the dressing room.
With a never-ending line up of hit after hit, Robinson gave Long Islanders a truly amazing performance. His vocals were powerful and nothing but perfection. He was youthful and vibrant, as well as down right sexy at times. He gave this audience his all, all his talent, but mostly all his love. With only a few more shows listed from now till January, fans hope for more show announcements soon.Photo Credit: Christine Connallon Photography