This is a Guest Post from Denise Campbell
It came as an utter surprise. The best kind: sweet, absolutely no reason, and out of the blue. The hubby procured two tickets to Maxwell’s BLACKsummers’night Concert at Madison Square Gardens. A coup he’d managed to pull off without triggering even a smidgen of suspicion. Erykah Badu is opening for Maxwell. It promises to be a fabulous night out. We’ll follow up with dinner at my new downtown favorite, Qi.
Erykah’s performance was underwhelming and uninspired, with a lackluster delivery of songs that said I’d rather be anywhere but here. Gone were the glory days when she weaved a hazy blazy spell over audiences with almost tantric precision. Lyrics interlaced with nuggets of wisdom and truth-telling delivered in Southern cadence. That was then. These days audiences will have to settle for a subdued Badu banging beats in a chic black overcoat, impressive Ferragamos and a top hat over spiraling blond curls. Thanks, but no.
At last, the stage is set: big band style, complete with sultry backup singers, saxophone, trumpet, bass, percussion and other accoutrements. The opening scene unfolds – the moon colliding with the sun and the resulting eclipse. His silhouette appears to the familiar strains and evocative promise of Sumthin’, Sumthin’. Then the man emerges from the shadows: Bespoke white shirt under a sleek, fitted black retro suit, eyes shaded behind dark sunglasses. We can toss the iPhone version we’ve been forced to settle for during his extended sabbatical. Maxwell announced his return with a medley of crowd pleasers that so many of us have dimmed the lights to. The single and Fortunate, This Woman’s Work and Lifetime from the album Now are as sublime as I remember.
The effortless seduction is reminiscent of a subtly seductive Marvin. Gyrating with a feline grace and almost tangible sensuality, his style evokes shades of the 60′s when understated showmanship and sly insinuation were more provocative that the hammer over the head technique of today. The honeysweet falsetto still as intoxicating as an aged Bordeaux, now mellowed with age and experience; but still as sensual as a long drip of sweat down your naked back. He killed with several favorites from the Urban Hang Suite album: feverish women mouthing every word of, Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder), ‘Til The Cops Come Knockin’, and ‘Suitelady’ (aka the Proposal Jam). His rendition of Al Green’s ‘Simply Beautiful’ sent shivers up my spine and made me remember why I went on an Al Green binge at 15 that lasted months.
From the capitulation of the line “I can’t control the feeling…” of ‘Bad Habits’ to the naked honesty of ‘Fistful Of Tears’ eager, panting were women happily losing their minds. One woman – a brave, not-to-be denied soul – threw caution and fire-engine red panties with dead aim into the singer’s hands. Not missing a beat, the two-time Grammy Award winner caught the itty bitty thing, and with a slight, unobtrusive gesture, tucked it into his pocket. Yep, still got it. But not for him the overt bravado, outlandish claims and unimaginative maneuvers of the teeny bopper set, Maxwell understands the art of subtlety; the gradual peeling of layers rather than a mad dash for the goodie box. No, the men in the audience (the hubby excluded, of course) were not pleased with him. His passion for women – and theirs for him – is too naked and absolute. The laying down of arms before our feet, the poignant whispers, feels like too much concession of power. Guys could do themselves a favor and forget the cloak and dagger game playing and the oneupmanship for a minute, as Maxwell sang, “that’s a punk move right there.” Besides, the adoration is a two-way street and it shows in his performance and appreciation for his legion of fans and in their love for his music.
Maxwell closed with the ethereally beautiful gem ‘Pretty Wings‘ from BLACKsummers’ night, a treat for the many who waited for the very last drop. Worth it for them? Maybe. Beloved and I left skid marks on our way out. But for me? Oh yeah.
Are you a Maxwell fan? If so, which is your favorite album? Leave a comment and let us know.