NEW YORK — It took Robin Thicke a little while to break through. Well, more than a little while, actually: After his A Beautiful World debut suffered meager sales in 2003, four years later, people are finally coming to the conclusion that the soulful singer/songwriter is dope.
His latest single, “Lost Without U,” has brought Thicke much-deserved and -desired validation, and has helped bring his sophomore effort, The Evolution of Robin Thicke, close to the platinum mark. It’s also helped him win over singers such as Ciara, Usher, Mary J. Blige and Omarion, all of whom have expressed to MTV News how much they love The Evolution. There’s even a rumor he may soon be getting a call from a certain pop queen to go on tour with her.
Thursday night at Irving Plaza, Thicke was a one-man show. The concert was sold out for weeks, and it was obvious that the crowd consisted mostly of die-hard fans. After all, you have to be a die-hard to see an artist of his caliber performing at Irving Plaza — either that or you need really youthful legs, since there aren’t many chairs at the venue.
Thicke didn’t get onstage until 9:30 p.m., even though ticket holders had been in the building since 7:30 to get a good vantage view. While Thicke’s father, Alan — yes, Jason Seaver from TV’s “Growing Pains” — watched from the VIP balcony in the company of high-ranking industry execs like Antonio “L.A.” Reid, Andre Harrell and Steve Stoute, sonny boy did his thing onstage with a band.
On one of the opening numbers, “Shooters,” the usually laid-back Thicke showed he isn’t afraid to show his tail live. He did the project stomp — if you don’t remember that dance, go back and watch any old Leaders of the New School video — rapped Lil Wayne’s last verse on one knee and used the mic stand as a faux Tommy gun, adding emphasis to the whole shooter theme: Rat-a-tat-tat.
Much calmer and more seductive was “Complicated.” The women in the audience sounded like they were trying to out-sing the singer from the onset. “I wish I could change/ I wish I could change/ I wish I could stop sayin’ the same old things,” they started to belt uniformly, bringing a smile to Thicke’s boyish mug. “I wish I could be who u want me to be/ I wish I could stop being the same old me.”
“Lost Without U” once again found the women singing every word, this time even drowning him out at some points: “U wanna roll with me, u wanna hold with me/ U wanna stay warm and get out of the cold with me.”
“Would That Make U Love Me,” a song with a slightly faster pace, really displayed Thicke’s vocal ability as he took it high on the chorus. He sounded like Musiq Soulchild mixed with a splash of Stevie Wonder, or Marvin Gaye with a hint of Justin Timberlake.
Thicke’s one shortcoming seems to be his inability to really work the women in the crowd, to really drive them crazy. He got screams and made the front row swoon on “Teach U a Lesson,” but he looked a little awkward gyrating and stroking the mic stand while he softly sang, “See you after class, you’re a bad girl. Somebody is gonna have to teach you a lesson. … You can call me professor.” As Thicke evolves as a performer, he’ll get closer to really be able to give the women a case of the trembles.
But for now, even if he can’t swivel it like his good friend Usher, wiggle it like Chris Brown or bounce it like R. Kelly, Thicke is proving that you don’t need smooth moves to have a successful show — that is, if you have a stellar voice.
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.