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Concert Reviews:
Smokey Robinson Brings Motown Magic, Memories To DTE

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Monday, July 27, 2009

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- Smokey Robinson said "It's so good to be home." And the audience attending Thursday's (July 23) show at the DTE Energy Music Theatre could only -- what else? -- second that emotion.

It was a poignant time for the Motown hitmaker and onetime vice-president to be returning to the Detroit area, what with the company celebrating its 50th anniversary ("I was there on day one," Robinson reminded the crowd) and also mourning the death of Michael Jackson. Robinson certainly deserved a more populated homecoming than the few thousand who trooped to DTE on Thursday, but those who were there certainly made him feel welcome -- including lengthy standing ovations for particular favorites such as "Ooo Baby Baby" and "Just to See Her."

In return, Robinson and his nine-piece band (along with two out-of-synch dancers) delivered a showroom-style, 110-minute show that deftly balanced song and schtick while delivering plenty of Motown memories. Still boyish and playful, Robinson came out looking snappy in a black tux (later changing into clashing read leather pants and conquistador's shirt) and grooving to a discofied arrangement of "Going to a Go-Go" and a loping "I Second That Emotion" before settling into a more faithful treatment of "You've Really Got a Hold on Me." He talked about Motown's three-year anniversary celebration before performing a medley of songs he co-wrote for the Temptations -- "The Way You Do the Things You Do," "Get Ready" and "My Girl," mimicking the group's famed dance moves throughout.

Robinson, who's voice showed a bit -- but only a bit -- of age, also paid a brief tribute to Michael Jackson before kicking off a medley of love songs with "Who's Loving You," a tune Jackson famously covered when he was 11 years old. And with a stand-up comedian's timing, Robinson introduced "The Tears of a Clown" with the story of getting the musical idea from Stevie Wonder during a Motown holiday party at the Roostertail; "He offered to drive me home so I could get started" writing it, he cracked.

Robinson also gave his more recent work its due via "Being With You," "Mirage" and his version of the Norah Jones hit "Don't Know Why" that will be the first single from his new album, "Time Flies When You're Having Fun," which is due out Aug. 25. He closed the show with a lengthy run through "Cruisin,' " pulling two women out of the front rows to lead fan "teams" in singing the final chorus line -- fun stuff, maybe, but it also took up a great deal of time he could have used to sing more selections from a songbook that's not only one of the richest in Motown history but in all of pop music.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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