Reeves and Robinson lit up TD Jazz Festival
As the first night of TD Jazz Festival opened, the lights on main stage of Nathan Phillips Square tent went up and out came the MC for the evening. First up she introduced Chris Stomper, Senior VP of corporate marketing for TD. He spoke briefly about why we were here, of course for the annual TD Jazz Festival. Then Joel Glassman took to the stage to thank and extoll just what the festival has become.
After the opening ceremonies, one of the Grand Dames of Motown, Martha Reeves, strolled up onto the stage, mic in hand, and began the show by thanking everyone in attendance. After that she let everyone know that she recently celebrated her 40th anniversary of Motown.
Martha and the Vandellas performed to a standing crowd. It was a high energy show lasting just over an hour. She performed all the hits that she credits the audience for making famous. Martha being the consummate performer she is added a little stand up to her show while performing her seminal hit “Heatwave.”
Reeves, at the young age of 72, has more stage presence and hop in her step then almost any of the current contemporary mainstream pop music artists. Also, it should be noted that even though this was a seated event during several of her songs the crowd was on their feet doing the hully gully, the twist or just bobbing their head. As Martha and the Vandellas’ performance came to a close, the audience showed her, the Vandellas, and the band love with a roaring applause and a standing ovation. Several minutes later after the stage was broken down and reset, a nine piece band and two dancers wearing vintage flower power print outfits emerged followed by the one and only Smokey Robinson. Working on the stage and the crowd’s energy that Reeves had setup for him, he quickly jumped into his first song and after that, he took a moment to engage and talk to the the audience which at this point was in the quadruple digits under the main stage tent and completely engulfed Nathan Phillips Square.
For those in the Square or on the ramp circling the Square, they had giant video screens broadcasting Smokey’s show.It’s remarkable to me to see the palpable contagious energy that performers of this ilk effuse while doing a show that have a crowd from the age range of 8 to 80, get up and want to shake their groove thing during his 90 minute long show that included Motown standards “Going to a Go-Go,” “I Second That Emotion,” and “You Really Got a Hold on Me,” as well as a trio of songs he wrote for the Temptations. He then capped that set off with the song “My Girl” in which he opted for audience participation.He suddenly then segued into stories about the old days, fond memories he had. He then went on to describe how all Motown artists made sure they were off the road for the annual party. One particular Christmas stood out in his memories, and it was about Stevie Wonder presenting him with the idea for “Tears of a Clown” at a Motown Christmas party.
After this conversation, Wonder then offered to drive Robinson home so they could get started working on it right away. One audience member shouted out, so did you take the ride? Robinson replied “Hell no, Steve drives too damn fast.”Robinson still has the passion for music and it shows in his live show and his references to his latest albums Timeless Love and Time Flies When You’re Having Fun. Robinson has served notice that age is nothing but a number and that he has plenty of musical years still in his blood and has some newer songs to sing along with his vast library of oldies but goodies.
Story and photos by Tee Onek