A few thoughts about Smokey Robinson’s performance Saturday night at Mystic Showroom at Mystic Lake Casino:
- At 76, he still has an impressive range and emotionalism in his voice. Vocally, the celebrated pop poet is a master of the high coo.
- The Rock and Roll Hall of Famer has a wealth of wonderful material that he either recorded or wrote for others, mostly in the 1960s. And he opened his 1¾-hour performance with three blockbusters from his own recording career —1981's “Being with You,” the Miracles' “I Second That Emotion” (from 1967) and their “You've Really Got a Hold on Me” (from 1962).
- He also pandered to modern tastes (certainly not the boomer audience that filled the theater) with three newish songs, including 2010’s embarrassingly simplistic “Love Bath” that suggested a PG R. Kelly.
- Dressed in a shiny Christmas-green suit with green shoes, Robinson was an eager-to-please showman, who fancied himself as a sexy dancer (complete with rubbing his chest and thighs as he gyrated). He never had a Tom Jones-like reputation, so why bother at this age? He even dragged the closing “Cruisin’,” his 1979 smash, into a monotonous, overlong, oversexed marathon.
- As someone who’d been at Motown since Day 1, he told a fun story about Stevie Wonder showing up late to the label’s annual Christmas party one year and how the two of them collaborated on writing a song later that night – “Tears of a Clown.”
- Robinson was chatty and friendly. After mentioning the brutally cold weather in the Twin Cities, the longtime Los Angeles resident told the faithful, “I don’t know if I’d have come to see us.”
- Seeing Smokey's trying-to-look-ageless face with lots of eye makeup and cosmetic surgery brought Michael Jackson and Kenny Rogers to mind.
- In the Motown tradition, Robinson used his three backup singers effectively. They almost turned “My Girl,” which he wrote for the Temptations, into a doo-wop number.
- Robinson received a few well-deserved standing ovations during his generous performance. One was in response to “Ooh Baby Baby,” as he totally milked the slow seduction with that dreamy falsetto that was part purr and part pleading. After the huge ovation, he proclaimed: “I guess that’s it!” and threatened to leave even though it was only the fifth song. He was joking. He had much more romancing to do.