Friday night at L’Auberge Casino & Hotel, a full house at the Events Center loved being with Smokey Robinson.
A founding father of the Motown Records dynasty of the 1960s and ’70s, the 73-year-old Robinson thrilled his audience with renditions of his sweet soul music.
During the first of his two consecutive nights at L’Auberge’s Baton Rouge casino, Robinson often turned his microphone to his lively audience, letting his fans sing the lyrics they know so well.
But by no means did the singer coast through the show. He perspired so profusely that, after he removed his black vest, everyone saw the sweat in his soaked lime-green shirt.
The singer’s six-piece band, three backup vocalists and two female dancers launched the show a few minutes after 9 p.m. Robinson joined the group almost immediately, his no-fuss entrance inspiring screams from ladies in the audience.
Singing in his unmistakably smooth tenor and falsetto tones, the Motown legend opened with his 1981 solo hit, “Being With You.” But the performance quickly jumped back to the glory years of Motown via two Smokey Robinson and the Miracles classics, “I Second That Emotion” and, a song recorded by the early Beatles, “You’ve Really Got a Hold On Me.”
“We have got some singers out there this evening!” Robinson said following “I Second That Emotion.” “You sounded so good,” he added. “Let’s sing another.”
For “Ooo Baby Baby,” another hit from the ’60s, the audience applauded when the song began and then applauded every time the group performed the “Ooo, ooo, ooo, baby, baby” line in the song’s chorus.
Ladies in the crowd didn’t just clap, they laughed, lurched forward in their seats, stretched their arms out in symbolic embrace. As if it was 1965 all over again. And after the passionate Robinson had elongated and exploited “Ooo Baby Baby” for maximum, sensuous impact, he received a loud, standing ovation.
“Wow,” he said. “Well, I guess that’s it.”
He was just kidding. “Ooo Ooo Baby” was song No. 5 in the 90-minute show.
Robinson, someone so important to the success of Motown Records, turned his spotlight on the great African-American record company founded in Detroit in 1960. Instead of performing a show filled only with his own hits, the singer devoted a portion of the evening to songs by and references to his Motor City peers.
Robinson composed music for the Temptations, for instance, but his early efforts didn’t catch on. While on tour with the Miracles, however, during one of his turns to drive, Robinson got an idea for a new song. He later joined the Temptations in the studio as the song’s producer. “The Way You Do the Things You Do” became the first of the Temptations’ 37 Top 10 hits.
At L’Auberge, Robinson and his group performed three of his Temptations songs, “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” “Get Ready” and “My Girl.”
“Everybody in here was singing that time!” Robinson said in the afterglow of “My Girl.” “You are the L’Auberge Choir!”
Besides name-dropping his Detroit peers, whom he called his Motown family, Robinson did an amusing, dead-on impression of Stevie Wonder, followed by a song he and Wonder composed together, “The Tears of a Clown.”
Ninety minutes wasn’t enough time for the master songwriter to perform all of the hits he created. “Mickey’s Monkey” and “Shop Around,” for instance, didn’t make the set.
No matter. Robinson showed just what a musical miracle he still is.