Probably the major takeaway from Smokey Robinson’s recent sold-out show at the MGM Grand Hotel ballroom in Maryland’s National Harbor was Smokey’s ability to physically cover the stage — no small feat for a 78-year-old entertainer.
In fact, the legendary crooner had his 3,000-member audience awestruck with his ability to literally run from each end of the stage, thrilling the crowd with his still-clear, soulful first-tenor falsetto vocal work, which remains his signature style since his first record release in 1959, “Bad Girl,” on the Chess label.
A year later, he would collaborate with Berry Gordy Jr. and form Motown Records in his beloved Detroit. “Shop Around” would become one of the year’s most popular tunes in America in 1960. The rest, of course, is history.
During his Sept. 15 show at the MGM, he provided personal stories about the company’s formation and how a tight-knit group of Black teenagers were able to follow the tutelage of Berry Gordy and become one of the world’s music’s most successful music corporations of all time.
Interestingly, the audience featured a diverse blend of ages from 40s to 80s. It also resulted in a public singalong, especially when the star pointed his microphone toward the audience, and on cue, everyone sang those creative lyrics that have become a lexicon of our American pop music culture.
Naturally, there was plenty from The Miracles’ songbook, including “I Second That Emotion,” “You Really Got a Hold On Me” and “Tracks of My Tears.” Backed by an outstanding rhythm section featuring two keyboardists, a bass player, drummer and guitarist and three backup vocalists, Robinson accompanied his hits with personal stories, making the music even more appealing and personal.
His treatment of “Tears of a Clown” was special, as was “Quiet Storm” and “Just to See Her” — two tunes recorded in the 1980s when many of his ’60s contemporaries had lost their zeal and record-buying appeal.
He shared his longtime love for and friendship with for Stevie Wonder and his support of Michael Jackson through his controversial pedophilia allegations. Through it all, Smokey remained Jackson’s friend to the end.
Smokey also reflected on returning to the D.C. area.
“I recall coming here and playing the Howard Theater,” he said to loud cheers. “I always loved the Howard. I grew up there. But this place is really something special.
“I heard Steve was here last week,” he said referring to Wonder’s Sept. 8 show at the MGM National Harbor venue.
For those who have yet to witness the legend of Smokey Robinson, do yourself a favor and grab a ticket. it’s definitely a show worth seeing.