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Issue 1084

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SMOKEY ROBINSON: LIVE @ THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL: LONDON, 27.06.07

SMOKEY ROBINSON: LIVE @ THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL: LONDON 27.06.07
SMOKEY ROBINSON: LIVE @ THE ROYAL ALBERT HALL: LONDON 27.06.07

With a full string session, three background vocalists, six musicians and two dancers, Motown legend Smokey Robinson offered a full show - his first in a series of UK dates after a lengthy absence from live performances in Britain - that should have sated the hunger for a walk down memory lane for virtually every member of the crowded Royal Albert Hall on a rainy Wednesday evening in the capital.

Ever the showman, Smokey knew that the gathered faithful had to hear certain classic Miracles tracks along with some of his own solo hits - and he duly obliged. That he's never been known for vocal acrobatics cum pyrotechnics is undertstood: a Smokey concert, by definition, evokes treasured reminiscences for one and all and Mr. Robinson delivered.

Kicking off with 'Going To A Go-Go', Smokey - clad in a white coat and suit - took us back to the '60s with 'I Second That Emotion' and 'You Really Got A Hold On Me' before switching gears and reprising his 1976 anthem "Quiet Storm" (which was the inspiration for an entire U.S. radio format). An obvious highlight, "Ooo Baby Baby" was a natural crowd pleaser, providing one of many occasions for audience participation; a medley of songs Smokey wrote for The Temptations - including 'The Way You Do The Things You Do' and 'My Girl' - was a reminder of how responsible Smokey was for many of the greatest classics in the vast Motown catalogue.

First a hit in the U.K., "Tears Of A Clown" (co-written with Motown cohort Stevie Wonder) ended the first segment of Smokey's set before a change of pace and mood: highlighting tunes from his most recent 'Timeless Love' CD, Smokey offered the standards 'Fly Me To The Moon' and 'I Can't Give You Anything But Love' alongside his own 'I Love Your Face'. Sandwiched between Miracles hits and his own '70s and '80s charted singles, the inclusion of the Vegas-styled numbers from Smokey's 2006 album was a little jarring: maybe in a different setting (like Vegas itself), this portion of the show would have worked better; for this reviewer, it was the least satisfying part of an otherwise-enjoyable show that culminated with a series of time-honoured Smokey chestnuts which kicked off with 'Who's Lovin' You' and ended with 'More Love'.

No Smokey Robinson show would be complete without 'Tracks Of My Tears' and the legendary singer, songwriter and producer delivered with style and panache, acknowledging longtime collaborator, guitarist Marv Tauplin with whom he wrote that enduring song and the 1979 hit, 'Cruisin'' which Smokey chose as a suitable ending number complete with a soulful sing-a-long involving the entire audience.

A hugely enjoyable evening in the company of one of soul's most endearing and enduring legends.
Words DAVID NATHAN

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