Maxwell is back. With a record topping the charts after eight years of silence, he played The Palace Tuesday night. Rest has been good to him. Still looking like a boy, his slick dancing has matured, and his voice, still youthful, has grown up a bit. Call him dangerous now. The crowd of screaming women Tuesday night certainly would.
Opening songs included “Sumthin Sumthin,” the ballad “Lifetime,” and “Get to Know Ya.” Maxwell knows his music well, cutting the horn accents with a flip of his hip, or a jerk of his knee. He hit the deck a few times for push-ups, every move a sexual act between him and his audience.
He spent a lot of time talking and singing about sex, even lying on his back to sing a few times, to show the women “how he likes to do it.”
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To read a related story, click here for Michael Hochanadel’s Jukebox column.
“Everwanting: To Want You to Want” was good, but fell a drop short, which became more apparent when they broke into the upbeat “Cold,” which had an extra punch to it. Here he reached his outer range with his falsetto, the horns hitting hard and percussion swelling the bottom end.
Wearing a classy black suit, white shirt and white tie, Maxwell wasn’t even close to the best-dressed in the hall, a credit to his equally classy audience. He took off his jacket to sing his hit, “Pretty Wings” from his current release BlackSummers’Nights,” which built nicely, but was unnecessarily forced toward the end as he kept egging on the crowd to sing louder. The song was expanding well enough without his coaxing.
“You know it’s all about the ladies,” he said. “But this is the part where I set up the fellas,” guaranteeing the men that they score after the show, at which point he launched into the soulful ballad “Simply Beautiful.” He’s best on these slow ones, where he has room to play with his voice and move his body between phrases. He can mime the lyrics well enough so that you can follow the song just by watching him, as though Maxwell has his own full-body sign-language.
Maxwell can move between his low tones up to his falsetto and back down into throaty statements like it’s nothing. He’s not the hardest worker on stage, taking it easy on his body and voice, but his ease and style are so attractive that not only do you not notice, but you realize the appearance of lack of effort is a part of his act.
Chrisette Michelle opened the concert. Large, theatrical and talented, her songs were catchy, flowed naturally and had a soul. She’s an impressive figure who plays a cute Betty Boop grown and capable. But between songs her comments are articulate and intelligent. The only drawback to the set was that her voice didn’t reign supreme over her band, a great band that pumped and pushed, but drowned her sometimes.
“Porcelain Doll” might have been her catchiest tune, where she scatted a little and gave us some hearty advice about giving. She’s not a shouter and during “Be OK” it would have been nice to hear some volume and range. She delivered a good dose of vocals and class during “Blame It on Me.” A great start to a night of hip soul.