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Maxwell Melts the Draws Off Radio City Music Hall

Maxwell

Seven years after his last album was released, the man better known to the world as simply Maxwell (or Fine Ass Maxwell, Sexy Maxwell, My future Babydaddy Maxwell, Where the f*ck IS Maxwell, et al), still sounds just as good, if not inconceivably better, than he did in 2001. Besides a surprise performance at this years BET Awards, where he sang the living hell out of "Simply Beautiful" to celebrate honoree Al Green, our boy has stayed voluntarily out of sight over these past few years. The remainder of 2008, however, is filled to the brim with Maxwell concert dates for which tickets may cost as much as $200 each. On Thursday night Brooklyn's Finest came home to New York City's Radio City Music Hall to delight his hometown crowd with a sold out show nearly a decade in the making.

Before there was a Ne-Yo, a Chris Brown or a J.Holiday for the youngins to swoon over, there was Maxwell's impossibly perfect falsetto. Maxwell was for the women, not the girls. Grown folk music. And evoking the holy spirits of Luther Vandross, Marvin Gaye and James Brown, Max sounded (and looked--don't sleep) like everything we've been missing for so long; even sans his former lion's mane afro.

It should go without saying that chicks went effing crazy before the man even hit the stage. Teddy Pendergrass in 1979 crazy. Bobby Brown in 1988 crazy. Jodeci in '91 crazy. Panties actually got tossed onstage crazy--but more on that in a bit*.

As soon as the lights lowered and the familiar guitar intro of "Get To Know Ya" began, women were shaking and stomping and screaming at the top of their lungs. And by women I mean me. There was really nothing intricate about the stage setup. It was "Big Band" reminiscent, almost, complete with a horn section. The entire band had on suit jackets; the lone female background vocalist a pink gown. There were no laser light displays or skyscraper sized LCD screens. But when Maxwell finally appeared at the top of a short staircase mid-stage, bathed in bright purple lights, black tuxedo jacket and slacks, white dress shirt perfectly unbuttoned, bowtie casually draped around his neck, short curly hair tightly coifed, it was all the decoration the audience required. The screams were deafening. Even the fellas had to give it up.

All the favorite cuts were present and accounted for and came one after another--"No One", "Lifetime", "Sumthin Sumthin", "Ascension (Don't Ever Wonder)"--and all were delivered with the youthful earnest of a performer a decade Maxwell's junior. (This past summer was his 35th). There was the requisite teasing: "Can I sing for you baby? Do you like that?" There were ad-libs designed to titillate--"I wanna take you in the living room and live IN you"--as well as to inform us of his seeming affinity for what he referred to as "healthy cornbread biscuit dripping women." I mean he literally crooned the word "cooooornbread" over and over and over again; the big girls went bonkers. And by big girls I mean me. And there were real moments of intense beauty. During "This Woman's Work" the entire auditorium sang every word of the Kate Bush cover, and Maxwell took a moment to close his eyes and capture the moment. It's rare a performer can invoke such hysteria in stillness but such candid appreciation and humility from such an enigmatic artist is equally as rare.

It would've been enough for the voice to be on point and the moves to work up a frenzy, but Maxwell's hiatus hasn't at all diminished the natural camaraderie he has with his fans. There was a comfort and genuineness to his presence that ranged from good ole fashioned boyish charm to full-fledged goofiness. He was earnestly self-deprecating about his new music, saying, "I know y'all are saying c'mon, man, play the stuff I know! Play the stuff I bought!" But the new material is classic Maxwell. No Lil' Wayne guest verses or poptart of the moment hooks, nothing that would imply he is in the least bit threatened by these new jack R&B singers. The funky bass-laden new cut "Bad Habits," which boasts a jewel of a line that goes a little something like "I feel you from the floor to the ceiling," is a perfect fit in his catalogue. It was also great to hear "Pretty Wings" in its entirety instead of the minute long snippet that's been on his MySpace page for close to a year.

He toggled between sincere prudishness about cussing ("I don't know if there are kids in here") to squatting, thrusting, grinding and humping the stage, the mic stand, the air. This hit a fever pitch during "Til the Cops Come Knockin," which besides maybe "Fortunate", his biggest hit to date, received the loudest screams of the night. This was in no small part due to the fact that he preceded the song by saying--and this is verbatim--*"There are not enough panties on my stage." One rather ample pair of draws was soon to follow and, not missing a beat, Maxwell's response was "Damn girl, you got some junk in your trunk. I do NOT mind." He did tell us he likes 'em "healthy." The panties went around his neck. Apparently this is a choreographed part of the show, big draws and all, but who cares. The women ate it up.

The encore, "Whenever, Wherever, Whatever" and an additional new dancehall-tinged song entitled "Cold," was like a heartbeat building to a final climax. Maxwell's voice tickled like fingertips on the back of a neck and glided between that sweet falsetto and a deep rumbling growl. Al Jarreau meets Isaac Hayes. His excellent band had an opportunity to introduce themselves and they repped their cities--from LA to ATL to Cleveland, OH--to the fullest. But tonight was the hometown boy's night. And New York is proud of its native son. Welcome home, welcome back.


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  • Ro

    This review makes me so upset I missed him when he came around these parts. huny invariably brings the awesome. I am now expecting a Janet review so good that I'll become violently angry I couldn't afford to go 🙂

  • cococurious

    Thanks you so much for the detailed account of last night's show. I'm
    ecstatic that Max is back and in fine form.
    BTW, the panty toss was not staged,planned,but not staged. My girl HISchynamami/Diana was responsible for that,lol. Check out http://www.maxwellfanforum.com for more Max concert recaps. Peace.

  • Michelle

    Girl, I was there and every detail you covered. He was the ish and the bomb last night!
    God I love this man!

  • Guuuuuurl, that was the DAMN THING last night. 'Nuff said.

  • nybruh

    Great show.. .sorry to say, Jasmine Sullivan was pretty boring... I know, i know, she's new... her material is just so mediocre, there was not much to get excited about. She killed need u bad, but the rest of the time, was just patiently waiting for maxwell

  • DLS77

    Excellent review!!!!! OOOOOhhhhh I wish I was there....love ....that.....man!!!!!

  • jb

    nice review. i was there too. he is the truth

  • bellllllaaaaa

    Oh mah gosh, I wish I could afford to get a ticket to his concert in ATL! Am I gonna have to trick for this man?! I reeeeaaaaally wanna go, I just have to find the means to that end. Ah man, this is like the best review I've ever read! Makes me feel like my life will be so boring if I miss it! I AM SO HYPED!

  • joy

    Thanks Huny!! Nov 1st ...I'm the first in line at the Shrine in L.A.!!! LOL I can't wait.

  • Assata

    I was at Radio City(in full effect)....one word for Mr. Rivera....amazing... Period!

  • KC

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for that review. I was kicking myself for missing out on a Radio City ticket (I first saw Maxwell there during his very first tour from the 2nd row & still have yet to recover...he put it on me so bad). Fortunately, I was able to snag a good seat for the United Palace Theatre show he added in Nov...and I cannot wait.

  • joy

    That review was so dramatically accurate that I almost cried while reading it like I cried when Max sang "Whenever,wherever,whatever"! Agree w/ cococurious,my fellow forum member, bout the panties thrown on stage by chynamami...complete w/the blue rose!I will have my blue roses for him when I go to see him again next month,front and center in Birmingham.Can't wait!!!

  • Great write-up. I'm a big fan of Maxwell. It's awesome to see him back. He's got an amazing voice. I do think he's better than ever.

  • Ola

    Very nice review. I sooooooooo love this man. I can't wait for Nov 17th in DC. I'm in the 5th row.

  • Nonplussed

    I laughed and laughed all the way through that review. Thank you.
    Wish I'd been there.

  • Star

    Great review...I went to his CT show this past Friday.
    Amazing...that man is incredible.

  • T.

    Just want to tell you that I saw the man, the myth, the legend in Toronto this past Saturday. He was beyond beautiful and sounded like the hottest angel in heaven. He was in fine form, singing, dancing, chatting us up, telling us how grateful and thankful he was that he still had fans after all these years. Doesn't he know he's got a lifetime customers? Loved his new songs, especially Bad Habit....when he starts the part in the chorus about "...this is the hotness..." I just about fainted. Think I had triplets when he did an extended version of Cops, screaming like a 12 year old. Paid half my rent to see this man, and I would do it again in a heartbeat.

  • brittany

    all i know is that i seen some of the concert on youtube and this man is soooooooooo FINE its a shame! like come on! and im only 17! but best believe when i turn 18 im setting out on a hunt to get with this man! and he single? wat! its on o and stop saying hes gay cause even if he was i still would do his fine self!~ THANK YOU JESUS!

  • stoneyisland

    Cant front, this cat is an old school kind of performer, not to mention he has mad talent. HOWEVER I wouldnt pay 200 to see the great Luther Vandross, much less this dude, I will however scoop up his CD whenever it drops. One more thing let the brother be himself because he will never command a stage like Teddy P.........

  • thanks for all the feedback on the review, people. I obviously enjoyed myself and I wanted to convey how inspiring an experience this concert was. keep reporting in as yall attend to the shows in other cities!
    stoneyisland: my teddy p. reference was solely in reference to the reaction of the females. I think I was pretty clear on that and I stand behind that comparison. thanks!

  • "Apparently this is a choreographed part of the show, big draws and all, but who cares. The women ate it up."
    The draws were not choreographed, but part of a fanclub idea! (:

  • MsM

    I can't WAIT until next Saturday. If NYC went nuts, L.A. is gonna go crazy. Those are two cities who show alot of love (if the love is earned :P). Can't WAIT!!!???!!

  • anon

    I dont know where you are, but if you are still interested in tickets it seems like prices are going down. I just got orchestra seats in nyc for 79.50. My girl got a seat the week prior to the Boston show for 39.50, also orchestra...

  • MsM

    I was there last night in L.A.. I nearly cried, I definately drooled (I mean literally). I felt ecstatic, amazing, satisfied, disorientated by the pleasure. His band is off the CHAIN. Well worth the money...I had two tickets and had to go alone and was not mad at the lost $100 - worth every damn penny.

  • Sashay

    I am so mad at myself becaues i heard about his concert in the atl the day before which is today i wish i could go damn . best believe i will be waiting outside just incase.

  • Evlelyn

    OMG...I WENT TO SEE MAXWELL AT RADIO CITY ON 10/9, THE CONCERT WAS EVERYTHING THAT I HAVE EVER IMAGINED AND MORE...SO, I HAD TO SEE HIM AGAIN 11/23 AT THE UNITED PALACE THEATER...THIS MAN IS A TRUE ARTIST IN WHAT HE DOES...CAN'T WAIT FOR BLACK SUMMER NIGHTS



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