George Michael may want your sex and Samantha Fox may want your body, but Smokey Robinson, who has been turning out seductive hits since before those popsters were born, is interested in a lasting romance.

Robinson, who headlined the Universal Amphitheatre over the weekend, has a body of work that is as smooth as silk, but his performance Friday had an intense, insistent edge. He seemed especially wired into the music on a propulsive version of his recent Top 10 hit "Just to See Her." This refusal to just go through the motions is what makes Robinson more than merely a nostalgia merchant for the "Big Chill" crowd.

Robinson's show blended tight, rhythmic pieces with fluid songs that found him locked into a sensuous groove. The pacing, however, was uneven. The show ended tediously, with Robinson splitting the audience down the middle for a "feel-good contest." Robinson (the object of an unabashed fan letter in English band ABC's fast-rising hit "When Smokey Sings") doesn't need to resort to cheap devices to make an audience feel good.

Second-billed Carrie McDowell's big, booming voice is well-suited to Broadway songs and cabaret pop, but her unfocused set also included--of all things--a version of the soul classic "Respect." McDowell (whose "Uh Uh, No No Casual Sex" was one of the first records with a "safe sex" message) has about as much soul as Connie Stevens.

Copyright © 2019, Los Angeles Times
EDITION: California | U.S. & World