Robin Thicke, Roundhouse, London – review

Robin Thicke on stage at the Roundhouse

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He wants, he told us, to see a world without poverty and racism. He sang with vigour about love, passion and sex – the latter most notably on “Blurred Lines”, the hit song (from the album of the same name) that’s been surfing a wave of notoriety thanks to its misogynistic lyrics and its semi-pornographic video. He thanked his fans for their support. Several times he addressed the audience with “I love you, God bless.” And the thing is, I didn’t believe a word of any of it.

The Canadian-American star Robin Thicke has been around for some years now, both as a songwriter for the likes of Usher and Christina Aguilera and as an artist in his own right. He can turn his hand to a well-crafted song. He can sing – his range is considerable, his control excellent. But for almost the entirety of this show, a one-off performance as part of the iTunes Festival, I felt not the slightest stirring of the blood.

Part of the problem was Thicke himself – a sleazy-looking character in a too-tight suit who disported himself as if he was Mr Irresistible but in fact came across like a TV shopping channel host. However, the music was the main thing. Like many pop fans, I’ll happily forgive a performer all kinds of transgressions, indiscretions and infelicities in exchange for great music, but what Thicke and his five-piece band rendered here was mostly a lumpy porridge of funk-dance-rock-pop-R&B styles in a show that spun and stretched its thin material to breaking point. Is that all he’s got? Only twice, on the sprightly, funky “Magic” and the brilliant, insidiously sinister “Oh Shooter”, did the musical temperature rise. But even then, just as the latter song was building up an impressive momentum, it took a detour into a cringeworthy rendition of the chorus from “No Woman, No Cry” (“Everything’s gonna be all right”) and never recovered.

Perhaps the biggest surprise of all, given Thicke’s reputation for sauciness (the opening song was called “Give It 2 U”), was how sexless the whole thing was. On stage were three backing “singers” whose chief role was to decorate the stage with their slinky moves; in fact they served up a repertoire of drearily clichéd routines that were as sexy as an office supplies catalogue. “Blurred Lines” wrapped up the show. There were screams from among the young crowd (though few danced, and many just watched through their mobiles). My own pulse remained resolutely unquickened.

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