Halfway through his 16-song set Thursday at World Cafe Live, Robin Thicke sat down behind his piano and placed an order: "Let's get some champagne for all the ladies in the front."
Delighted female response erupted all over the sold-out venue. Was Thicke's request sincere, or just more of his winking, R&B crooner-seducer banter? It didn't much matter. Throughout the entertaining show, the platinum-selling, Grammy-winning front man played his part, setting up songs like "Wanna Love U Girl," "I Need Love," and "The Sweetest Love" with enough onstage earnestness and musical follow-through to make it work.
Thicke has long been happily partnered with his gorgeous actress wife, Paula Patton, (currently starring in Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol). So when he climaxed "An Angel on Each Arm," his opening number, by asking, "Can I get all up in your body tonight, baby? Can I get all up under your skirt tonight, baby?", the queries were probably not taken too literally by anybody, no matter their stage proximity.
Thicke, 34, the L.A.-raised son of actors/singers Alan Thicke and Gloria Loring, began penning tunes as a teen. But besides contributing songs and production to Michael Jackson, Lil Wayne, Mary J. Blige, Christina Aguilera, Pink, Marc Anthony, Usher, Jennifer Hudson et al., he has had a solo career gathering steam since his 2002 debut.
Thicke's tour of intimate venues is ostensibly to promote his fifth studio album, Love After War. And his smooth delivery of the new record's lush, lovers-reconciled title track was a highlight. But Thursday night's show showcased his pivotal 2006 disc, The Evolution of Robin Thicke. Half the set derived from it, including the beautiful, bossa-nova-inflected closer, "Lost Without U," a song inherently soft enough to allow the many women singing its chorus to be heard. Thicke took advantage, melismatically vamping over the top, gracing the house one last time with his Prince-ly falsetto and vocal synthesis that can suggest both a white Marvin Gaye and a male Sade.