10 Things I’m Thankful For (After Attending the Final Show of Maxwell’s Tour)

Let's just start here: There's no way on God's green Earth that I could ever come close to this stellar review of the Maxwell experience. So I won't even try. However, with that said, since I was in attendance at last night's tour-closing performance featuring the amazing Jazmine Sullivan and the Eclectic One himself here at New York's United Palace Theater, and with this being the week of giving thanks, please see below and after the bounce my list of the 10 Things I'm Thankful For after attending my first-ever Maxwell show.

#10: The weather. Surely, if this concert were held during the summer, we would've peeped poorly-conceived patterns and portly paunches painfully protruding over painted-on pants. But alas, that's not the best New York has to offer. Nope, nothing brings out the best (and worst) in City folk like cold weather. From full-length furs to three-piece suits, last night was a veritable fashion show. And that was before you even stepped foot inside. And with Maxwell in town as the catalyst, making it the perfect date night, my people got those special outfits together and strutted Uptown. Good times.

#9: The security. Um, there was none. You would think that with that many scalpers (seriously, there was one for each patron) and unseemly characters hovering outside the venue, that there would be a bigger police/security presence. Not. At. All. Thankfully, everyone inside was on their best behavior, and no one pulled anything from their floor-length coats, but still. United Palace, we have to do better.

#8: Jazzy's background singers. They bounced, they cooed, they wore their wigs with pride. And I loved every minute of it. It seems that during every concert I attend, my eyes gravitate toward the background singers. The way they sing, their dance steps...everything. And these young ladies were into it from the first note. It's hard to keep up that type of energy. Kudos to them.

#7: The new material. It's the first concert I've been to in a while where, when the artist sang new material, the crowd didn't shrug it off and start amusing themselves by talking up a storm (See Scott, Jill.) People were actually trying to sing the chorus along with Max by the second choruses of the new stuff. At first, it threw me off. Then  it made me smile. "Pretty Wings," indeed.

#6: The brass section. Admit it. Any time you hear a trumpet or saxaphone solo, you smile. That's because the instruments are not only dope, but the sounds they produce are like punctuation marks to a singer's voice. The perfect complement. Too many artists overlook the brass, thinking that it's a luxury they can do without. Thankfully, Maxwell didn't, and in fact, featured those gifted musicians on more than one track.

#5: The theater. We all know that the wrong venue can make or break an artist. For example, right after he first came out, Musiq Soulchild made the mistake of appearing at Madison Square Garden as an opening act, singing tracks from his debut CD. And sounded horrible, because the acoustics in the large arena didn't lend well to his vocals. We know Musiq can sing, and if he were to appear in a smoky hole in the wall, he'd likely blow us away. Certain artists, certain venues. I can't speak for the Radio City show, but having both Maxwell and Jazzy at this smaller venue gave their voices an extra sumthin'-sumthin'.

#4: The estrogen. All I did last night was smile. Like cheesin', smiling. Almost every lady in the place came to impress for their favorite R&B singer. There was no panty-throwing (except for the choreographed, from-behind-the-stage variety). However, there was a receiving line for kisses and handshakes down by the stage. DURING the show. And with this being the last stop on the tour (and his hometown), Maxwell obliged each and every one of them. Me? I appreciated them all, too. Even the two young ladies that almost got beat down for planting themselves at the balcony's railing, impairing the view of some rabid Max fans. They escaped without injury. Talk about fortunate.

#3: The "Ascension" a capella. With that arguably being his most famous song, Maxwell hit the stage for his encore with the high notes that kick off "Ascension (Don't Ever Wonder)," started the first verse--a capella--and then let the crowd take over. Mannnnnn, listen. I got chills as the entire crowd--men included--sang each note. Loudly. An incredible moment. Not the main highlight of the night, but definitely one of the biggest.

#2: "Lions, Tigers & Bears." If you've never heard this song, no turkey for you on Thursday. You're on punishment. It's that good. And if you've never heard this song live, then you're missing out on not only the turkey, but the entire meal. Jazzy's voice is amazing, to be true. But singing this song, she causes you to fall into a trance. It's like you're a baby listening to the greatest bedtime story ever, or there's a mobile above you with little lions, tigers and bears accompanied by the sweetest melody ever.  For real, she's hypnotic with hers. Please catch her on tour when she goes back out. That song alone is worth the price of admission.

#1: Raspy Max.  After two solid months on tour, going from coast to coast and beyond, it's reasonable for an artist to lose their voice. Or for it at least to be strained. That was Maxwell last night. Add to that the long, long, long hiatus that he's been torturing his fans with on, and it's a wonder he had anything left as the tour wrapped. It was his love for his hometown Brooklyn, he said, coupled with a nervousness that made him want to excel, that carried him through the night, and gave his voice that extra texture and desperateness that can only be compared to a baseball pitcher throwing on short rest, or a basketball player playing on back-to-back nights. Those athletes have to dig deeper to put their best effort forward, as did Maxwell last night. He put in extra work on "This Woman's Work", and did his best to knock down "Til The Cops Come Knockin'." Just a great performance, and a great introduction to his live show. I'm glad I was there. Besides, with his voice perilously on the edge throughout, I could've been in the house on the night when Maxwell pulled a Peter Brady. That...would've been priceless.

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14 Responses

  1. Great post Harlem.
    However you lost me at this:" I could've been in the house on the night when Maxwell pulled a Peter Brady. That...would've been priceless."
    Who is Peter Brady?
    Anyway, after seeing Maxwell in concert in Chicago, I have this warm, fuzzy feeling inside. Lawd help me!!!

  2. Chyna, good looking out. Shame on me for assuming everybody would know. Peter Brady of the Brady Bunch was the middle brother whose voice changed before our eyes back in the day. lol Here's a clip. I've included it in the post, too.

  3. Harlem, you are officially on TIME OUT thru Thanksgiving. I can't even get thru this clip. ROTFL!!!!

  4. I saw Maxwell in the D. I can only say that was one of the greatest individual performances I have ever seen. Aplogies to Prince and MJ-the basketball one.

  5. i also saw Max & Jazzy in the D (earlier in the year when it wasn't so cold," and it was one of the dopest shows i've ever seen, easy. i think one of my favorite moments (out of many) was when the band segued into "Ecstacy" by Ohio Players. i think it was during "Sumthin' Sumthin.'" that was incredibly hot.

  6. until this cat releases another album, he aint getting no props. I dont know if his greatness is a reflection of how great he is or how untalented his peers are..................Think on that for a minute:)

  7. @stoney: True talent should be measured in showmanship. Any cat that can perform live and not sound like utter garbage is totally worth the props.

  8. @stoney: When you say his "peers" are you referring to Jill Scott, D'Angelo, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, Eric Benet, etc.? Surely you aren't calling this group 'untalented'?

  9. @stoney: When you say his "peers" are you referring to Jill Scott, D'Angelo, Lauryn Hill, Erykah Badu, Eric Benet, etc.? Surely you aren't calling this group 'untalented'?
    I was maining referring to his male counterparts. There are only about 5 cats in the game right now who are as talented vocally then Maxwell, out of those 5 none are probably as good a performer. However Britney spears is a good "performer" Madonna is a good "perfomer" neither can carry a note to save their lives. I say this because for my buck, either a cat can sing or he cant, no vocalizer or auto tune makes a cat a real artist. I am on record as saying Maxwell is a talented cat but if there was more talented cats putting out good music then maybe some folk wouldnt consider Maxwell as one of the all time greats. I've seen tapes of Al Green and TP in concert in their primes and all I am saying is Maxwell should not be mentioned in the same sentence. I took this question to my uncles who are in their 50's & 60's and too a "T" they also said they could name 20 cats better then Maxwell. Next time you cats are in a barber shop bring up the question then get back with me:) Holla

  10. @stoney: So basically you're opinion is that until Maxwell produces a more impressive body of are not ready to list him amongst the "greats"? I guess that's fair enough.
    My opinion is that a thorough examination of history determines who receives the title of 'great'. At the time when Al Green, TP, Sam Cooke, etc were making their music and producing their definitive sounds, I don't think anyone would have predicted that they would be listed among the greats of music.
    I think after the passage of time and an examination of what these artists music produced in terms of legacy or laying the foundation/standard for artists to come, then you can begin to discuss their 'greatness'.
    I've never compared Maxwell to Sam Cooke or Al Green for that terms of evaluating his greatness factor. However, I do think that Max has made a very impressive and solid start to his musical legacy. How 'Black Summers Night' will contribute to what he's building musically and what the end result of his legacy will be will only be determined by history.

  11. "Pretty Wings" was on my Myspace page for a minute. Love it. I missed seeing him this time around. I am going to try and see Jazmine Sullivan when she goes on tour next year. Her voice is indeed THE TRUTH. 🙂

  12. I agree w/ Chyna in that Max is definitely off to a great start in terms of his musical legacy.I went to his Radio City show and also saw him in Birmingham,and would have seen the final show if I didn't care more about having a place to live,and I can't think of anyone out today who can sell out most of their shows in a 2 month period without having put out any new material in 8 yrs!! He deserves his props,and I'm looking forward to Valentines Day if he keeps his word about Black coming out!

  13. I am glad you made it to the show. I was there as well, and also attended the opener in Boston. His voice was pure heaven at the first show, still lovely though on its last leg and the final show. But his energy and enthusiasm at the final show surpassed Boston by miles. He really seemed to be in his element, maybe because it was home, but something was different, he was just so ON. We left singing and dancing and smiling for hours. The encore was just joy... I loved both shows, and can't wait for the album.

  14. It is my opinion that Maxwell has already arrived. I feel that it is not quantity but the quality of an artist work that determines the level of "greatness". Otis Redding was a prime example. His untimely death left the world with only a taste of his gifts, yet he is undeniably one of music greats. If Maxwell never releases another cd he has earned his place amongst the likes of Marvin Gaye, Sam Cooke and Otis Redding. In addition to being an extraordinary vocalist, he's also a gifted lyricist (a rare combination these days). His body of work thus far is incredible and he has carved his place in music. I feel fortunate that there is an artist in this generation that we can consider as a "great" musician. We did not have to wait 30 years for someone of Marvin Gaye's caliber to come along.