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Robin Thicke's talent in clear focus at Foxwoods

By Kristina Dorsey

Published March 02. 2014 11:00AM   Updated March 02. 2014 2:01PM

Mashantucket - People who know Robin Thicke only for his pop-culture-saturating hit "Blurred Lines" need to see him in concert to truly appreciate his talent.

At Thicke's total blast of a show Saturday at Foxwoods' Grand Theater, he nuanced romantic falsetto notes and brought swagger in his lower register. He danced with an unforced, I-feel-it-in-my-bones panache. He commanded the stage with an easy confidence that didn't cross into cockiness, and he seemed to be having a whole lot of fun. He was like Justin Timberlake with a little extra maturity.

It was probably a relief for Thicke to be back onstage, singing. The star has been in the headlines recently for everything but his music. He was all Miley-cized out after Cyrus caused a ruckus with her twerking MTV-Awards turn with Thicke last year.

And then, over the past week, Thicke became prime tabloid fodder when his wife, actress Paula Patton, broke things off with him. Thicke canceled the first three dates of his "Blurred Lines" tour, as he reportedly tried to reconcile.

Coming out of that whirlwind of drama, Thicke finally kicked off the tour on Thursday, with a concert in Fairfax, Va. The Saturday gig at Foxwoods was his second.

At the Fairfax show, he referenced the break-up, saying that he was trying to get his wife back and that she was a good woman. At Foxwoods, he didn't make explicit mention of the strife. You'd be forgiven, though, for wondering whether he might have been thinking of Patton when he sang Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" or when he told the crowd that nothing is more important than true love or true friendship, and you should never give up.

Hey, whatever's going on with him personally, Thicke made the concert a musical joyride.

His songs shifted over the R&B landscape, exploring different terrain and giving the show a happily well-rounded feel. "Oh Shooter" was one of the dramatic highlights, with its insinuating groove. Thicke moved seamlessly among such intense songs and change-ups like the reverie "Dreamworld," about imagining an idyllic existence. His voice dipped into after-hours smokiness on "Pretty Lil' Heart" and ran fluidly in and out of falsetto on "Feel Good."

And for "Blurred Lines," of course, the audience went nuts.

Thicke was working it throughout the show. He was decked out in a GQ-worthy dark gray three-piece suit that ended up soaked with sweat. (Several times, he wiped his face with a towel that he then fling into the audience.)

He was supported by a funk-tastic 10-piece band. Most of the musicians were arranged on tiers, behind bandstands emblazoned with "RT," but they'd occasionally shift down to the mainstage — at one merry point, following Thicke around in a dance line.

Here is one thing I think every other artist in the world should do for his or her band members: During one instrumental number while Thicke was offstage, each musician was introduced — with his name projected alongside a close-up on the video screen — while he riffed a bit. So often, you can't hear the band members' names clearly when the star introduces them. To see the names along with their faces as they tear up a solo is a wonderful way to really give them their due. So, guitarist Chris Payton and keyboard player Larry Cox and everyone else, take a bow.

k.dorsey@theday.com

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