When you’ve reached the level of career success Smokey Robinson has, you can be forgiven for coasting through a concert.
Fortunately, that wasn’t the case with Robinson’s show Sunday night at the Peabody Opera House.
Robinson, 75, is clearly still fashioning himself as a sex symbol. But who’s complaining?
His fans didn’t seem to mind as the Motown legend, wearing a sheer, red shirt, showed off his bump-and-grind moves during the 90-minute concert, including on modern ballad “Love Bath” from his 2009 album “Time Flies When You’re Having Fun.” (The song is better in concert than on the cheesy recorded version.)
“At this point in my life, I’m having the time of my life,” Robinson said. “Time flies when you’re having fun.”
Though he performed many of his well-known hits, the concert was far from a melodic stroll down memory lane.
Dressed in red leather pants and a red silk jacket he quickly ditched, Robinson joined his eight-piece band that included keyboardist S’von, a St. Louisan, and two backing singers for opening song “Being With You,” a smooth classic.
“I Second That Emotion” and “You Really Got a Hold on Me” were older classics that helped build the house of Motown long ago. “We got some singers out there tonight. You sound so good,” he said, acknowledging the singalongs from what he dubbed the “Peabody Opera House choir.”
“Quiet Storm” kept the silky flow going, but it was in “Ooo Baby Baby” that Robinson best displayed that he still knows how to caress a ballad — and how little his vocals have diminished. The song garnered major applause.
“Well, I guess that’s it,” he joked.
There was a lot of talk about the old Motown days and the hits he wrote for others, leading to his renditions of the Temptations’ “Get Ready” and “My Girl.” He also performed the standard “Fly Me to the Moon,” which he recorded for “Timeless Love” in 2006.
The show was in support of Voices for Veterans, which helps homeless vets. Robinson spoke briefly but memorably about the organization, saying “veteran” and “homeless” should never be in the same sentence.
He also said that, although his band members had never played the Peabody before, he practically grew up in the room — when it was Kiel Opera House.
Less useful during Robinson’s set was a pair of scantily clad female dancers who popped in and out of the show.
Support act tenor Mario Frangoulis opened most appropriately with “Here’s to the Heroes” and “Strong,” and thanked the veterans for their sacrifice. He mixed in Christmas songs including “I’ll Be Home for Christmas” and “Jingle Bells,” and got a laugh when questioning whether “White Christmas” was out of place.