Wolf Trap Gets Smokey

13 08 2009

Last night my dad and I went to Wolf Trap to see the legendary Smokey Robinson perform. I love a lot of music that Smokey Robinson and the Miracles made, back in the Motown glory of the 1960s. The concert was overall pretty fun but also not what I was expecting. It did however had more topics I could discuss, compared to the Van Morrison concert I went to a week ago on August 6th.

First of all, I only knew like 40% of the songs performed last night, which surprised me. While I may not have grown up in the 1960s, I do think I have a pretty good education about Motown and know far more Motown music than a lot of my peers. The set started off with a bunch of really pop-y and short versions of some of Smokey’s big hits, such as, You Really Got A Hold On Me and Going To A Go Go. The former song has become one of my favorite songs, even though I normally don’t prefer such over-played songs. Either way, because Smokey Robinson is in his 70s and it was at the beginning of the show before he could warmed up, the first few songs were rushed through and not so great. (Nonetheless the crowd really had fun.)

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Something to note is that along with the large band and three backup singers, there were also two female dancers which appeared onstage for a select few songs. I guess they were there to add to Smokey’s sex appeal (which I honestly wasn’t aware of before last night). The first song of the night, Going To A Go Go included the two dancers dressed in skimpy 60s outfits with tall, white Mod boots and psychedelic-patterned short tops and skirts. They were fun to watch at times, while other times, I felt a bit awkward watching their sexist dance moves and come-ons to Smokey Robinson who at times not only looked but also acted like a pimp. The dancers had different outfits for each song they came on stage to dance to. Sometimes the outfits fit along with the song (one song about rain, the girls wore raincoats and carried umbrellas). But other times the outfits left me for a complete loss for words. Towards the end, the dancers came out wearing some red ruffled dress which looked like a Flamenco dress. Smokey Robinson doesn’t do any Flamenco-styled song, so that was random. For the song, Tears of a Clown, the dancers’ costumes almost looked like they were clown costumes, but they didn’t quite cut it, leaving me too distracted by their knee-length black and white striped socks, black and white dress complete with pom poms?, white gloves, and odd, bowler hats to actually appreciate the music.

Then there was the matter where Smokey did a whole lot more talking than singing. (Ok, maybe it was about even.) I came for a concert, not a sermon. I do realize that a lot of Motown music is greatly influenced by the African American Baptist church goings and religion, so the talking, nay preaching to the audience isn’t that uncalled for. But I have also been to other Motown concerts, such as The Temptations and The Four Tops and neither of those groups talked as much as Mr. Smokey Robinson. At times it was even annoying how much he talked.

And then there was the very strange interlude Smokey Robinson did of songs which can best be described as Smokey’s mid-life crisis phase of the concert. You can kind of think of his concert last night as a chronological mirror of his career. The beginning had his popular over-played radio hits, he performed some songs he wrote for The Temptations/Four Tops, and then come the middle of the concert he went AWOL. There was an unannounced set and costume change and the audience was (literally and figuratively) left in the dark with the strangest interlude music. I couldn’t figure out if it was Smokey’s own music or just some filler music Wolf Trap had for the faux intermission (pretty sure it was the latter). When Smokey and his band re-emerged they had set up for what became an out of place JAZZ set of songs. He covered, Fly Me To The Moon (what???) among other random selections. Smokey then proceeded to do a terrible thing. He played a few cover songs. I did not go see the great Smokey Robinson sing cover songs. Not only were they cover songs, but they were songs of the last few years by artists of other genres. He seemed confused. He did a cover of Nora Jones’, Don’t Know Why. Honestly, I don’t know why he did that song. Sure, he and Nora Jones have a similar crooning sound to their music, but that doesn’t mean it’s fine for him to do her music. He just seemed so caught up in his fame and the audience at times. He should know better than that.

Lastly, Smokey Robinson had a number of costume changes. I really liked the white suits everyone on stage had for the first set of songs. It was cool and cooling and looked good in the stage lights. Smokey had on a silky purple ruffled shirt. After the first few songs, the jacket came off and unfortunately I became distracted by his sweat stains. A costume change was welcomed at that point, and I assumed he’d be changing into something that breathed better. But for his weird jazz middle set, he wore a full tuxedo. Smokey! What were you thinking? It’s August in Washington, D.C! Bad idea. Well that set thankfully didn’t last for long, and he had a final costume change into hot, red leather pants. (Again, he must have predicted 40 degree weather for August or something.) The audience (especially the ladies) went wild when he came out dancing in those pants. I felt so uncomfortable. It was like the feeling you get (I can only imagine) when you walk in on your parents in a romantic mood… Gross. Like, good for Smokey Robinson for being so hip and sexual at his ripe age of 70-something. But it sure was weird, too.

Anyways, with all these “not so ideal” concert moments, I really did enjoy myself. I’m glad I went. His music was fun and he was more than entertaining. I got some really great pictures I took of the concert which I’ll try to post.

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One response

24 04 2010
mapgradia

Very fascinating information. Definitely bookmarked!

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