Forever Smokey

Smokey Robinson smokes the Paramount's 95th Anniversary Gala

Smokey Robinson at the Paramount Theatre's 95th Anniversary Gala, May 14, 2011
Smokey Robinson at the Paramount Theatre's 95th Anniversary Gala, May 14, 2011 (by Gary Miller)

At 71, Smokey Robinson projected 41 out into the Paramount Theatre on Saturday night, the downtown landmark’s 95th Anniversary Gala. And he sang and danced like he was half that age. Time has written Smokey Robinson off the books apparently.

Patron-wielding wait staff roamed the isles of a pre-performance auction that raised in the middle six figures. By the time it was over, the full house was drunk – on departing Paramount Executive Director Ken Stein’s fundraising prowess (he’ll guest next year). A guitar signed by Smokey sold for $23,000. His sixpiece band was onstage even before the business half of the evening had scooted off.

Performers of every stripe can open an hour of greatest hits with a song tumbling out of an audience’s lips even before the singer starts singing. But every single song? And Smokey wrote every one of them – except for the Norah Jones number (“Don’t Know Why”). Why Norah Jones? Same reason she’s probably sung a Motown standard or two.

“Being With You,” “I Second That Emotion,” “Ooh Baby Baby,” “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” “Get Ready/My Girl”: Smokey worked it like the Apollo, clutching one of his dancers in a duet as steamy as the actually music. He sang like honey and hoofed it on light legs and a firm torso. And when the Motor City native tells a Stevie Wonder joke, it’s “Steve” (versus “Smoke”), and he was actually there. Like when they wrote “Tears of a Clown.”

Age only reared a generation gap in Smokey's indulging himself on “Fly Me to the Moon.” He could’ve sung Sinatra another hour – anything he wanted. Instead, “Just to See Her” got the nod, followed by everyone standing on their feet swaying and spraying “Tracks of My Tears.” Immortality suits Smokey Robinson, pure and simple.

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

More Smokey Robinson
Love Bath
Love Bath
Fifty minutes backstage with Smokey Robinson

Raoul Hernandez, March 19, 2010

Smokey Robinson
Smokey Robinson
10pm, Austin Music Hall

Raoul Hernandez, March 19, 2010

More by Raoul Hernandez
Judas Priest Co-Founder Ian Hill Wields <i>Firepower</i>
Judas Priest Co-Founder Ian Hill Wields Firepower
UK metal gods near the half-century mark

May 23, 2019

ZZ Top, Bad Company, and Cheap Trick Stage a Texas Jam
ZZ Top, Bad Company, and Cheap Trick Stage a Texas Jam
Seventies headliners reanimate the me decade for the ages

May 20, 2019


Smokey Robinson, Norah Jones, Ken Stein

One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

Updates for SXSW 2019

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle