Wednesday, Feb. 27, 2019 | 2 a.m.
Motown icon Smokey Robinson has performed at many different casino venues on and off the Strip over the years, but tonight marks his Wynn Las Vegas debut. And the 78-year-old crooner with the buttery smooth voice and golden-green eyes is excited to be back on the Strip, especially since it’s a short trip to the Encore Theater stage from his home in Summerlin.
That’s right, Robinson is a real resident headliner, having maintained a home in the Vegas Valley for more than a decade. As he celebrates the 60th anniversary of Motown Records and the sound he helped create, Robinson is looking forward to more concerts this year in Las Vegas and across the country.
I just sat down with Human Nature, the group you helped bring to the Strip 10 years ago this year. Do you still keep in touch with those guys? Oh wow, if it’s 10 years for them then I’ve been living here longer than I thought! Just last week I recorded a special that’s going to be showing at Easter, the 60th anniversary of Motown, and my God, 60 years went by like that. But yes, I talk to them all the time. I’m trying to go see them on Thursday because I’m off that night. I haven’t seen the show since they started doing the “Jukebox” show. It’s funny, I meet people all the time when I’m in Los Angeles or New York who have been here and say, “Oh, we saw your group Human Nature in Las Vegas.” They’re talented men. They’re the bomb group.
This is your first time performing at Wynn but you’ve performed many times in this spot on the Strip. This used to be my home casino. I had a residency at the Desert Inn for about five years. Now here we are, new building but same spot. And this is a great place. Many times my wife and I come over here and spend a few days even though we live right over there in Summerlin, just because.
I never hear about Smokey Robinson being spotted out at restaurants or strolling through the mall. For the last couple of years I’ve been spending more time in Los Angeles because work has kept me there more than here, but I’m an out-and-about person. I try to live my life as normally as I possibly can. I’m so blessed because I’m living a life that I absolutely love. It was my most impossible, wildest dream as a child to do this. It’s like God said, “I’m going to let you have this.” But I’m not going to let it be a prison. I’m not going to be walking around and every time you see me I have five dudes bigger than Shaq. I’m not going to live like that. I love too many outdoor things. I like getting up in the morning and going to run or walk and I love golf, but I don’t just play at the country clubs. I play at the pub links. Wherever my buddies and I want to go that day, that’s where we go. You might see me out at the mall! [Laughs.]
Are these shows at Encore Theater going to be the beginning of something bigger? I would hope so, since I do have a home here. For the time I would be here without traveling to do concerts, that would be really nice. I hope so.
You just did the big Grammy tribute to Motown with several performers including Jennifer Lopez. Do you think the perception of Motown has changed? Do you think the music can still resonate with younger generations? I am so proud, so very, very proud of what we have been able to accomplish with music at Motown. They still play those records all day long every day on the radio and they sound brand new. There are kids who haven’t been born who are going to hear that music and I’m proud of that. When I do concerts — and I don’t know if they’re going to allow this in the showroom here — there are people there with their children, kids 2 and 3 and 4 years old, sitting on their laps. And the first time I saw these people, they were on their parents’ laps. It’s a joy.
What else do you have planned for 2019? I’m working on two albums right now and looking forward to finishing those. I’m working on a regular secular album and a Spanish EP because I’ve been learning Spanish the last few years and I’ve been writing some songs in Spanish. I have one more song to record and that will be done. It’s a beautiful language and wherever I go, probably 30 percent of the audience is Latin people at my concerts.
Maybe you can get J.Lo to sing one of those songs with you? I would love to. She’s my baby. She’s a great woman.
Smokey Robinson performs at 8 p.m. February 27 and March 1 and 2 at Encore Theater at Wynn Las Vegas (3131 Las Vegas Blvd. South, 702-770-9966) and more information can be found at wynnlasvegas.com.