Story and Photos By Andy ArgyrakisAs a founding member of The Miracles, Smokey Robinson was one of the very first artists signed to Motown, and as a result, has been a direct influence on the musical generations that have gone after him. The smooth crooner has been known to dabble in doo-wop during the 60s, get down with all out soul in the 70s, crest through the 80s with R&B ballads, visit pop circles in the 90s and even gospel in the latest stage of his career. And as he exposed all of those styles and career periods at the beautiful, historic and mostly sold out Paramount Arts Centre in suburban Chicago, he hasn't lost a single step showing just why he's been revered for so many years.
Of course it was the hit parade from time spent with The Miracles that made for the most pleasing of the golden oldies, beefed up to modern contexts thanks to a spacious 12 piece string section. Sure, cuts like "The Tracks of My Tears," "Ooh Baby Baby" and "Tears of a Clown" all had a nostalgic tint, but their ability to stand through several decades of climate shifts solidifies each of them as classics. Other sweaty gems included "You Really Got a Hold On Me" and "I Second That Emotion," recalling a time when lyrics didn't have to be provocative to be romantic and as long as they had proper delivery, likely to get anyone in the mood to take it nice and easy.
Though a stream of screams still remained from the adoring audience, Smokey made sure to slow them down and keep the room silent enough to hear a pin drop for ballads like "Just to See Her." That velvety rendition, along with "Being With you," shed light on an equally important stepping stone for the innovator, demonstrating his ability to stand as a celebrated solo artist. Granted, that star faded a bit come more recent endeavors (like 1999's Intimate, which even had moments of Spanish singing) but that didn't keep Robinson out of step with his obviously supportive fans.
In the five years that have followed that last release, the singer has disappointedly stepped off the Motown label, but thankfully has kept the style close to his heart with a brand new record called Food For the Spirit. In comparison to the gems of yesteryear, recent cuts didn't make as much of a splash, but it was still nice to see the entertainer dabbling in territory he hadn't previously attempted. But with a house shaking rendition of a Temptations melody (including "My Girl") and the immortal "Crusin'," all side stepping was forgotten and the focus returned to glowing memories that flowed fondly in an otherwise flawless evening.
Visit the Paramount online at www.theparamounttheatre.com.
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