Playing to a sold out crowd at the Van Wezel in Sarasota on Thursday night, Smokey Robinson was late to the stage. The crowd was getting restless and no one quite knew what was going on. Rumor had it that there was a wardrobe malfunction going on in Smokey’s dressing room. But when Smokey walked out in an impeccable white suit with a periwinkle hanky in his pocket, the crowd went wild.
At 77, Smokey is truly one of our greatest musical icons. Robinson has written some of the most beloved songs of the soundtrack of our lives. He opened the show with his worldwide hit “Being With You”. He took flowers from a fan in the front row getting down on his knees to hug her. For the Spanish lyrics of the song, he duetted with one of his three backround singers. This all went on during the first song of the evening! His band is the best of the best musicians making Smokey sound as great as he can be.
One hit after another, Mr. Robinson was given a standing ovation after an emotionally charged performance of his 1965 hit classic “Ooh Baby Baby”. Charting with the Miracles in ’65, this song has been covered by many artists including Todd Rundgren, Ella Fitzgerald and Linda Ronstadt, who went to #7 with the song in 1978. Smokey joked, “Wow, we should have opened with this!”. He told stories about the beginning of Motown which is now almost sixty years ago!
The setlist included standards, jazz, medleys and new music from his “Smokey and Friends” album. At a Smokey show the hits just keep coming. Telling the story of the impetus of the 1970 hit “Tears of a Clown”, Smokey takes the audience back in time complete with an imitation of his friend and brother Stevie Wonder, who gave him a tape at a party to listen to and they turned it into the hit song.
“Tracks of My Tears” is one of the greatest songs of the century! The 1965 song has won many awards over the years and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2007. In ’08, the song was preserved in the Library of Congress as a culturally and historically significant song of the time. As great now as it was in 60’s, it is a real honor to hear this song performed live.
Smokey Robinson is a true American treasure. He has written some of the greatest songs of our time. Don’t miss a chance to see him if comes near you, it is a once in a lifetime experience to see and hear one of the greatest singers of any time! For a real treat check out Smokey on “Live from Daryl’s House” on YouTube for a great performance of “Sara Smile” and “Ooh Baby Baby”.
photos by Vicky Sullivan / Rock The Lens Photography