Smokey Robinson - The Greatest Hits Live
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The Motown maestro makes a smooth entrance onto the Desert Inn stage in Las Vegas and seems to get, well, winded halfway through the opening number, "More Love." Yikes. Smokey Robinson isn't hitting his full range here, certainly not approaching his trademark, celestial cry of desire and sensual fulfillment. One wonders how this indispensable architect of pop-soul is going to make it through another 17 songs, including a lengthy medley, in this 1998 concert. But by the fourth tune, a rousing take on his old Miracles hit, "Shop Around," Robinson is warmed up and pacing the slow release of his mature vocal gifts. It's typical of the man: everything about his art is controlled ecstasy in which every moment counts, and the full journey is its own beautiful reward. Backed by an outstanding band that takes a respectful but nimble approach to his classic arrangements on "You've Really Got a Hold on Me," "The Tracks of My Tears," and "I Second That Emotion," Robinson builds a majestic vocal bridge between gospel- flavored funk glory and delicate orchestral constructions. In no time, we're in his pocket. "Ooh Baby Baby" comes as a wave of masculine remorse couched in slow-dance splendor: adult experience in youthful form, the genius of Motown. "I Want a Love I Can See" and "More Than You Know" lead us to the peak of Robinson's gorgeous expression, earning him the right to play directly to the ladies in the audience with the touching corn of "I Love Your Face." The final performances, "Just to See Her" and "Going to a Go Go," take us from the wistful to the epic, the true scale of Robinson's brilliance. --Tom Keogh