Smokey Robinson smokes the Paramount's 95th Anniversary Gala
By Raoul Hernandez,
4:58PM, Mon. May 16, 2011
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.