The Seaside Summer Concert Series, an annual concert series where they exhume the bodies of hitmakers from the '60s and '70s to make them perform in the worst venue possible, continued last night with Smokey Robinson. While the sound wasn't great, it was miles ahead of the atrocious mix at last year's Jacksons show. The audience was still oddly divided into people who paid $5 for a seat, those who brought their own chairs, and people like me who stood in the back for free. This kind of segregation over such a large space doesn't unify the concertgoers into a crowd, making any audience participation fall extremely flat. "Going to a Go-Go" started the show, but Robinson's vocals felt weak and overused. By the fifth song, "Ooh Baby, Baby" his voice had warmed up, and he received a standing ovation from a number of fans. "We should've played that first," he remarked. Maybe, or maybe he shouldn't have front-loaded "I Second That Emotion" and "You've Really Got a Hold on Me" before he had a chance to find his pipes. "This is Thursday night in Coney Island. You had a thousand choices and you came to spend it with us. We love you," said the gracious Robinson. "Right now we are going to boogie," he said, taking the opportunity to show off some dance moves. When they evolved into pelvic thrusting, Smokey stopped himself, admitting, "I got a little carried away, didn't I?"
I've seen Toots Hibbert (70), Mavis Staples (74), and Jerry Lee Lewis (77) this year. Smokey is 73 years old, and among his fellow septuagenarians, he is up there with Toots in terms of impressive agility and mental clarity. He had no memory lapses whatsoever when telling the tale of how he wrote "The Way You Do the Things You Do" for the Temptations while he was driving late at night on a cross-country tour. He performed the song in a medley that included "Get Ready" and "My Girl," the latter of which saw moments of prime Smokey falsetto, most notably on the "I got sooo much love to give" line. He seemed satisfied with the crowd's performance as well, stating, "Everybody out there was singing that one. You sounded GREAT! I thought that you may have just been here to see a concert, but I knew after that you are the Seaside Summer Choir." He advised us not to miss Motown: The Musical on Broadway, and proceeded with a story about Stevie Wonder approaching him at a party with a song idea. Exaggerating the duration of Wonder's head-swaying blindisms for comedic effect, Smokey said, "He offered to drive me home so I could get started. But you know I wasn't gonna go for that. He drives much too fast." Smokey giggled with delight at his joke, and dropped into the track, "The Tears of a Clown." Stories like this are why you go to see these legends in concert. However, you don't go to hear them hawk their latest Cracker Barrel-released CD. "For those of you who've never been, Cracker Barrel is a store restaurant. You can go to Cracker Barrel and order some food. The food is great. Then you can go shopping, and when you're done, you can eat. Women love it," Smokey laughed. It was a weird bit of promotion that didn't go over particularly well. After all, he did use the same adjective to describe the food at Cracker Barrel as he did our singing ability. The song he performed following his pitch was called "That Place." With a chorus that contains the line, "There's no place like that place," I couldn't help but think he was singing about the chain restaurant with the rocking chairs on the front porch. It was only during the number's finale, where Smokey unleashed some orgasmic wails, that the crowd got on board. "Just to See Her" came next, but it delved too far into '80s cheese with its "Flashdance... What a Feeling"-reminiscent ending to excite me much. Accompanied solely by guitar for the first half of the tune, Smokey closed the show with "The Tracks of My Tears." It's one of my favorite songs, so I'm glad I got to hear it, albeit past its prime.
The audience leapt to their feet, showering Robinson with cheers as he departed. The stage lights remained on, and the drummer even seemed reluctant to leave. We waited and waited, applauding for an encore. Six minutes later, Borough President Marty Markowitz appeared. "I feel exactly the same way you do. Let me put it this way: It's show business," he said disappointedly with that same diarrhea-of-the-mouth he's famous for. It made the lack of an encore that much more awkward. He encouraged us to go to Luna Park and the Wonder Wheel, but everything was closed. Nathan's was packed though, the talk in the long lines all revolving around the concert's anticlimactic ending.
SMOKEY ROBINSON - 07.25.13 - CONEY ISLAND SEASIDE SUMMER CONCERT SERIES (1 hour, 5 minutes)
SET -Going to a Go-Go / I Second That Emotion / You've Really Got a Hold on Me / Quiet Storm / Ooh Baby, Baby / The Way You Do the Things You Do > Get Ready > My Girl / My Girl (tease) / My Girl (tease) / The Tears of a Clown / That Place / Just to See Her / The Tracks of My Tears