Its no secret that Brooklyn bred soul singer Maxwells smooth pipes have been known to cause quite a few panties to drop. Upon his return from an eight year hiatus, the question on everyones mind was Does he still have it? That question was answered last week when Maxwells fourth studio album, BLACKsummersnight, the first of a trilogy, debuted at number one on the Billboard Top 200. The album moved 316,000 units in the first week, as several acts that have consistently been in the spotlight over the years struggle to move even half as many units.
In June, Maxwell embarked on a national tour to promote BLACKsummersnight. I was Fortunate enough to catch him on Saturday, July 25th at the Foxwoods MGM Grand Theater in Connecticut. I took along with me high expectations from the last time I saw Maxwell perform, in 1996 during the height of his success.
The opening act, soul chanteuse Chrisette Michele got the crowd warmed up by performing a selection of her popular hits including Epiphany (Its Over) and Be OK. Her stage presence was commanding as she interacted with the audience and peppered her performance with sassy dialogue. Her smooth, yet potent voice was nearly pitch-perfect as she belted out lyrics about heartbreak and self-empowerment. Chrisette, also a New York native, proved to be the perfect choice for to prepare the well-dressed grown and sexy crowd for the main event.
Maxwell “Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder)” – Foxwoods MGM
The restless spectators, forced to endure a nearly hour long intermission due to traffic delays and technical difficulties, were awakened by the the first chords to Get To Know Ya from Now, Maxwells last studio album before his hiatus in 2001, but Sumthin Sumthin, one of the many breakout hit singles from the smooth singers 1996 debut Maxwells Urban Hang Suite brought the crowd alive as nearly the entire theater including myself, got up to dance like we were at a family reunion. True to his core, he then smoothed things out with the hit single Lifetime, also from the Now album.
I had been listening to BLACKsummersnight all week in anticipation of the concert, hoping that the singer, who wrote and co-produced the entire album, would perform the first track off the album, the seductive Bad Habits, which grabs your attention from the opening falsetto riff and sexy lyrics.
Lately lady, make me queasy.
Dont speak no sound.
I want you to prove it to me in the nude.
Addicted to the way you move.
The set list also included many ballads to showcase Maxwells perfect falsetto, including the confident crooners rendition of Kate Bushs This Womans Work from his 1997 MTV Unplugged concert, “Everwanting: To Want You To Want,” from 1998s Embrya, Fortunate, the 1997 R. Kelly penned hit from the Life soundtrack, Simply Beautiful which he performed as a tribute to Al Green at the 2008 BET Awards, the performance that brought him back from obscurity, and the current number one single from BLACKsummersnight, Pretty Wings. After performing Pretty Wings, Maxwell told of his bewilderment that the ballad, about breaking up, was recently used as a wedding song. Whatever, he joked, if you like it, I love it.
Another amusing moment occurred when the tall and lean Maxwell picked up a pair of giant bloomers apparently thrown on stage by a fan seemingly by invitation as early on in the show he stated that Ill take the panties, bras, whatever. Yall spent the money on the tickets, do what you like and indicated his preference for a fried biscuit gravy soppingirl. I need something to hold on to. Claiming to be setting up for the men in the audience to embark in a night of passion with their ladies, the seductive Maxwells finest moment was a freestyle that included the lyrics Ill give it to you til you say ouch. Ill give it to you with my mouth when we wake up Ill still be inside you, which invoked Sunday morning-like hollers from the men and women alike.
Closing out the show with Ascension (Dont Ever Wonder), from 1996s Maxwells Urban Hang Suite, the sexy singer, along with legendary guitarist, Wah Wah Watson, co-producer and longtime contributor Hod David, brilliant backup singer LaTina Webb and the rest of the band, rolled up his sleeves and put on his dancing shoes to glide across the stage and groove along with the whole theater once again.
In an age where most concerts are like big Broadway productions with numerous costume changes and props, Maxwell takes us back to a time when it was simplera more modest time. A testament to his modesty is the fact that he requested that the theater staff not turn on the jumbo screens in the small theater so that the audience could concentrate on the full band experience. Although he has been gone for eight years it feels as if he never left. For Maxwell, it is still ALL ABOUT THE MUSIC.
Welcome back Soul Brotha #1.