Concert review: Robin Thicke energetic, brisk at Fox show

“I know we’ve all got problems, but we come to concerts to get away from them,” Robin Thicke said a few songs into his Monday night concert.

It was one of several veiled references he made throughout his brisk, 70-minute appearance at the Fox Theatre: addressing the elephant in the room – his split from wife Paula Patton, which was the alleged reason he canceled his original Atlanta date last month – with enough sensitivity that you almost feel bad for the guy as he slogs through the biggest tour of his career while his personal life crumbles.
But Thicke was all smiles and slick professionalism as he traversed the stage during the opening “Give It 2 U” and “Magic,” bouncing down a set of stairs, edging into the adoring front row and finally sliding behind a piano to showcase his musical chops.
Though Thicke only became the type of name your grandmother might know last year after “Blurred Lines” catapulted him into the mainstream, he’s maintained a steady presence on the R&B charts for years, especially with 2006’s “The Evolution of Robin Thicke.”
He touched on all of his six albums while backed by a big band with a hot rhythm and brass section, and, once the over-modulated bass was leveled and Thicke settled in, sounded supple throughout the set.

While too many of his songs, such as “Shadow of a Doubt,” are stamped with a similar glossy groove that renders them indistinguishable, there are several in his catalog that deserved the live spotlight.
“Shooter,” a slinky crawl of a song, was performed with his right hand in the pocket of a three-piece suit, Thicke the picture of dapper cool despite his omnipresent I’m-workin’-up-here sweat.
The grittier qualities of Thicke’s voice filtered through on “Dreamworld,” which he performed behind the piano, while “Wanna Love U Girl” elicited cheers when Thicke, in his cheesiest move of the night, caressed the microphone stand and offered a few dance moves.
“Never give up on real love, that’s what I’ve learned,” he said at the start of “Lost Without U” as he swiveled his hips and snapped his fingers, singing the creamy ballad with finesse. Thicke ended the song on his knees at the foot of the stage, eyes clenched as he repeated its refrain until an oddly abrupt ending.
While Thicke certainly has enough material of his own to fill a 70-minute show, his covers of Michael Jackson’s “Rock with You” and Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together” (ahem) were well-chosen and adroitly executed – especially the smooth brass on the Jackson chestnut.

Naturally, the first percussive hiccup of “Blurred Lines” sent the audience of about 3,000 into various forms of dancing (and you have to chuckle at Thicke’s chutzpah to play Marvin Gaye’s “Got to Give it Up” as part of the pre-show playlist). Though he’s probably sung "Blurred" 1,000 times, Thicke and his band injected the song with the energetic fun of the recorded version (too bad T.I. didn’t show up to rap his portion) and, at least during his time on stage, Thicke looked like a guy who was able to check his problems at the door, too.