Friday, December 9
Better than: Dinner and a movie.
Not to make Robin Thicke’s sold-out show at Highline Ballroom a race thing, but no one got to make the joke about a white R&B singer with a smoking biracial wife singing to a largely black audience before he did. As his band cued up “All Tied Up,” a Downy-soft slow jam from his excellent new album Love After War, Thicke surveyed the crowd and said, “There’s white people in here tonight—this is rare.” Then he chuckled and said, “I must be blowing up!”
The best R&B performers know how to balance on the tightrope between seduction and flirtation, all while keeping the audience awake. Friday night, Thicke didn’t so much balance on that tightrope as dance upon it like an experienced acrobat, revealing why his fanbase has swelled over the years in the process. Leggy, pretty women of all shades danced with lust in their eyes as Thicke, ever the ham, gave them much to lust after. During “Teach U A Lesson,” he reached and grabbed a camera from a fan filming the performance, sang into the camera for the chorus, then gave it back—all without missing a beat. When he called for panties to be thrown on the stage before he broke into “Pretty Lil Heart,” he said that the underwear wouldn’t be for him, but members of his four-piece band. “They’re working hard,” he said, sounding like a decent wingman.
Despite the Lothario act, Thicke was gracious enough to not freeze out the many men he knew were in attendance on Date Night. When one woman caught his eye late in the show, he gave props to the man beside her. Before he broke into his current single “Love After War,” he talked about the argument he and his wife had that provoked it as a way for men to relate to the hard parts monogamy. (Apparently a television was damaged.)
As the generation gap between R&B fans begins to widen and cranky old-school fans complain about the new school’s lack of romance and love, Thicke has found himself to bridge the two camps in a way. On Friday, young love grinded all up on each other when Thicke sang the high-energy, dance number “Shakin’ It 4 Daddy,” while old love held each other close and slow danced to songs like “Dreamworld.” Thicke himself made no claims to being a superior lover, as so many of today’s male R&B singers are wont to do, but he might have left a few women contemplating the idea of opening up an account at AshleyMadison.com.
Friday night, Thicke put on a show that melded the old-school showmanship of artists like Teddy Pendergrass, with the new-school bluster of contemporaries like Trey Songz. Whether there were more white people in the audience than at a typical Thicke show or not, the white man on stage with the microphone in one hand and the crowd in the other proved that if he is “blowing up,” it’s well-deserved.
Critical bias: The extra ticket I had to the show was all I needed to make date night a success.
Random notebook dump: Thicke’s keyboardist rapping Lil Wayne’s verse on “Shooter” is what the kids would call “doing the most.”
Pretty Lil’ Heart
All Tied Up
Love After War
Ni**as In Paris / Teach U A Lesson
Everything’s Gonna Be Alright
I Need Love
Can U Believe
The Sweetest Love
Shakin’ It 4 Daddy
Lost Without You
This article from the Village Voice Archive was posted on December 12, 2011