Tuesday, July 02, 2013
Smokey Robinson: photo by Michael Ligon
When Martin Fry and Mark White of the UK pop band ABC released their hit song "When Smokey Sings" (a tribute to the Motown living legend Smokey Robinson) back in 1987, it contained the definitive lyric, 'When Smokey sings, I forget everything'. And that was so true as watched Mr. Robinson kick off the Toronto Jazz Festival on on a weather-perfect Friday night, with a free show down at Nathan Phillips Square. I didn't bother lining up for a wristband to secure a spot in the tented area that encompassed the stage but took satisfaction to watch the show from outside the tent catching occasional glimpses and photo opportunites [thank god for the 15x optical zoom on my point and shoot] of the man as he entertained the crowd with a variety of hits. There were many highlights and some of those included his dramatic, more soulful rendition of "Tracks of My Tears" [a song that he said had been penned by a young Stevie Wonder], renditions of songs like "My Girl" and "The Way You Do The Things You Do" [songs Smokey had wrote for The Temptations], and Smokey's classic "I Second That Emotion". Dressed in all white, with his band and back-up vocalists following suit, plus a few dancers who came out later, Smokey later shed the white blazer he started out the evening in as things started to cook. In good spirits for the entire night, Smokey quiped and bantered [about the old Motown days, for example] throughout the night that had the audience stuck on his every word. For me the most sublime song of the night was actualy one I was not really particularly too familiar with, although I was sure I'd heard the song at least a few times in my life, but not nearly enough times and that was his 1965-released song "Ooo Baby Baby" which was really one of the most heartbreaking, romantic songs I've ever heard. The audience singalong on "Cruisin'" for which Smokey had two volunteers from the audience each lead one half of the audience in a sort of battle to outsing each other on the song's line 'I love it when we're cruisin' together', was a great way to end the evening. 73 years old this past February, Smokey is, if you will excuse the pun, still smokin'.
Photos: Smokey Robinson @ Toronto Star Stage, Nathan Phillips Square, Toronto Jazz Festival (June 21, 2013)