If there was anybody who could be held up as an example of a truly professional performer, it would be Smokey Robinson. His swagger and stage presence say it all.
This is the second time I’ve covered a Smokey show, and he followed the same process each time. To play him on, the band starts before he comes out. After a minute or two, out he comes, smiling and singing. He slowly walks to the front edge of the stage and walks it, holding the hands of those who offer theirs, all the while looking into their eyes.
At one point he even held his mic out for a young lady to sing into.
Smokey Robinson founded the precursor to The Miracles in 1955 and after a few modifications to the lineup they renamed themselves The Miracles in 1957, the same year he met Berry Gordy. Shortly after that, Gordy founded Motown Records. In late 1960 they recorded their (and Motown’s) first hit single, “Shop Around,” and the rest is musical history.
Smokey’s class is underscored by him wearing probably the finest suits available anywhere. The last time I saw him it was a beautiful purple suit. This time it was an iridescent aqua double breasted suit that shimmered in the light, with shoes and belt to match. All this is tied together with French cuffs, cufflinks, and matching tie and pocket square. I wore my favorite black t-shirt and Grateful Dead necklace.
As he walked the front of the stage singing “Being With You,” the women and I were there to greet him. They reached for him with adoring eyes, and I stepped back to take pictures. It would seem that security was instructed to leave the fans alone, whereas it’s typical to see them keeping fans a bit back. Nobody got in the way, but security was close at hand.
The sound was wonderful and Smokey’s voice was without flaw. The stage lighting was fantastic with orange, purple, red and magenta lights that paired well with his iridescent aqua suit.
The band is well rehearsed and very tight. During band introductions Smokey gave a shout out to The Reno Strings, a group of local professionals who were hired to play the show.
Even though it was a sold out show, I did see many unoccupied seats in the center sections, which may have been saved for hotel guests. These sections were assigned seats, but a majority of the seating is sort of a semi-general admission. Your ticket purchase for these sections does not include any seat assignment. You have to race in to get a good seat.
I don’t think it’s reasonable to have senior citizens rushing for good seats like it’s a Lollapalooza concert. When you pay upwards of $140 or more, you should have a seat reserved for you.
The only other thing I found regrettable was the Atlantis had giant video screens on each side of the stage, but the video cameras were unmanned. When Smokey walked to the front of the stage he was cut off by the stationary camera at the corner of the stage. All you saw was the back half of him.
The camera pointing from the back center at the stage was fine for the wide shot it was set to, but Smokey frequently would tell stories while strolling side to side, but the camera was always stuck on a wide shot. It would have been very captivating to have close shots of Smokey while he was sharing interesting stories about Stevie Wonder, Motown and other memories.
Smokey and his team did a great job. In looking at his schedule you see that he’s averaging four shows a month: taking it easy in his golden years. At 82 years old, with a very secure financial portfolio, he does not need to be going on the road, so I find it very commendable that he does so. Nice job Smokey! Your fans love you all the more for it.
“…at three years old I told them my name was Smokey Joe. Everybody called me that…at about 12 years old I omitted the Joe portion.”
The Reno Strings
Luciana Gallo – Cello
Catherine Matovich – Viola
Alison Harvey – Violin
Olga Archdekin – Violin
Being With You
I Second That Emotion
You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me
Ooo Baby Baby
The Way You Do the Things You Do / Get Ready / My Girl
The Tears of a Clown
I Love Your Face
Fly Me to the Moon
Just to See Her
The Tracks of My Tears
Nick McCabe is a Reno-based photojournalist and musician. He’s been shooting concerts in the Reno-Tahoe area since 2006 and writing articles and reviews since 2012, as well as doing interviews on occasion. His musical education and playing experience goes back to 1967. He is a founding member of the Reno Tahoe Forte’ Awards, and he still plays music locally for enjoyment. First concert: Jimi Hendrix. Last concert: we’ll see.