William “Smokey” Robinson’s music is in the world’s musical DNA. As a founding member of the Motown empire, he penned and performed some of the most popular and historic songs of all time. The height and depth of his influence is incalculable, that is until his music is played to a room filled with people of all ages, races and different walks of life. It is then when one can get a glimpse of how far his reach has stretched. Houston, TX, experienced the Smokey Robinson effect at its own historic Arena Theater.
Mr. Robinson opened the show with “Going To A Go-Go,” the energetic 1965 hit. His immediate enthusiasm and passionate energy set the tone for the night and remained consistent throughout. Known just as much for his distinctive voice as for his writing abilities, one could most definitely say his voice has only gotten better with time. While he was taking the audience through early Motown tunes e.g. “I Second That Emotion”, “You’ve Really Got A Hold On Me”, “Ooo Baby Baby” and “The Love I Saw In You Was Just A Mirage”, it was evident that even after 50 years of performing this material, he still loves it just much as the fans do. Throughout the show, he was a storyteller and historian, sharing insightful and hilarious anecdotes about each song.
The audience vibrated when he performed classics he’d penned for his friends and peers at Motown, i.e. The Temptation’s “My Girl” and “The Way You Do The Things You Do”. No one can caress a ballad or craft a lyric like Smokey Robinson and this sentiment was echoed all night by the yelps and affirmations of enthusiastic audience members.
Several songs from his latest release, TIME FLIES WHEN YOU’RE HAVING FUN and TIMELESS LOVE (2006) were performed. What was awesome about this segment of the show was Mr. Robinson’s latest, original material can stand up right next to some of his hits, so the audience had no time or reason to get restless during songs they maybe didn’t know. “Time Flies When You’re Having Fun” for example was a beautiful and just-as-moving substitute for hits he chose not to include, e.g. “Baby Come Close” and “Ebony Eyes”. He is also an incredible interpreter of song and this came through as clearly as ever during his cover of Norah Jones’ “Don’t Know Why”.
The show closed supremely strong with Mr. Robinson performing his mega-hits “The Tracks Of My Tears” and “Cruisin’”. This was the moment when it felt like the entire room was one. Mr. Robinson turned the audience into his own personal choir, while the music lifted everyone higher and higher. Houston couldn’t have asked for a smoother or a cooler pilot than Smokey Robinson.
About the Writer
Terrence Lathan is a music enthusiast based in Houston, Texas and the curator of HueSoul.com.