BWW Review: Smokey Robinson and Mario Frangoulis Bring Down the House at The Peabody
A special concert for Voice for Veterans, which seeks to give aid and housing to homeless veterans, took place at The Peabody Opera House on Sunday night (December 6, 2015), and it was a simply joyous experience. Sometimes benefit shows can be a rather somber affair, but that was not the case at all with the pairing of international singing star Mario Frangoulis and the legendary Smokey Robinson. In fact, it was a very enjoyable evening that showcased the talents of both artists who each made the point that homelessness and veteran are two words that should never be associated. These are, after all, men and women who serve our country with the knowledge that they may never make it back, or if they do, may find themselves disabled, or without a place they can call home. If you attended, then you know this was a great cause that featured superb talent giving their all to bring this issue to the forefront, while delivering entertaining and moving sets.
Mario Frangoulis opened the show with a baker's dozen of songs from throughout his vast catalog, including some very well received Christmas songs from his new album, TALES OF CHRISTMAS, which I reviewed last week. He opened with the moving song, "Here's to the Heroes", a very fitting tribute to those who serve. A stirring "Strong" came next with "I Believe in You" following. I could hear a person behind me commenting on what a lovely voice he has, and I wondered if they had come to see Smokey and were surprised at the clear and powerful pipes that Frangoulis possesses. He then sang one of my favorite Moody Blues tunes, "Nights in White Satin," which received a very warm response. An energetic run through a tune by composer Nino Rota followed, and the soaring "Caruso" came soon after. "Feels Like Home" preceded four selections from the new CD, and all of them received a rousing response, with "Christmas Mornings", "I'll Be Home for Christmas", "White Christmas", and "Jingle Bells" getting the crowd into the festive spirit. "You Raise Me Up" provided a fitting encore and close to his portion of the night. All the while he was backed by a terrific lineup of versatile musicians who displayed exceptional taste in their playing.
After an intermission it was time for Motown icon, and songwriting legend, Smokey Robinson to take the stage. Clad in a vibrant red suit, he brought the audience to a fevered pitch with his tuneful hit, "Being with You". Then he went back in time to give us superb renditions of "I Second that Emotion" and "You Really Got a Hold on Me." A nice run through "Quiet Storm" led directly into an absolutely smoldering version of "Ooh Baby Baby" that elicited the kind of intense reaction, particularly from the ladies in attendance, that you would naturally expect. Smokey may be in his 70's, but he's still got that raw sex appeal that he's always had. Reflecting on his time spent at Motown, he also gave us splendid takes on "The Way You Do the Things You Do", "Get Ready", an audience singalong of "My Girl", and my personal favorite from his vast repertoire, "Tears of a Clown". And he continued to bring the house down repeatedly as he worked the crowd, while also stressing the importance of the event, and lightening things up with some very amusing and entertaining stories. Truly magical. And, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention the fact that his band was just outstanding.
If you weren't able to catch the show, then you really missed a good one. Both artists are still very active and touring, so even though you may not see them together, they each proved that they are capable of bringing an audience to their feet with their excellent vocal skills. I'm so glad my son was able to attend, because it's rare that you get to see talent of this caliber! We both left with big smiles on our faces, and the knowledge that veterans will definitely reap the rewards of their combined efforts.