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Monday, October 12, 2009

Maxwell’s Black Summer’s Night Tour: Mr. “Prit-Tay Wangs” & Friends

EyeSPyZ: Ladies & Gentlemen the guest blogging series continues! You're in for a treat with the below read! *Shoutout to my fellow blogger LiliSheree for this! If you like this post..make sure you check out her others at Love Li Daze*

I like to think of Maxwell’s current album, Black Summer’s Night, as an aged bottle of wine. Fermented for a time such as this and finally cracked open for the celebration. What’s the occasion, you ask? The re-emergence of real soul music and an A-1 class act show crafted to visually compliment what your ears have the privilege to hear. Not only was I afforded the opportunity to purchase a copy of Maxwell’s latest album after an eight-year hiatus, I was also blessed with admittance to his concert experience. I use the word, experience, very loosely because the melodic pleasure coming from Mr. “Prit-Tay Wangs” (as I like to call him), band and back-up vocalists was only one aspect of the concert.

Let me start by adding my disclaimer: I never drank the Maxwell-is-a-sex-symbol kool aid, nor have I purchased any of his albums in the past. I have always been a fan of his radio cuts and was never in dislike of him. Prior to his sabbatical, I was still in high school and couldn’t appreciate “grown folks music”. Yes, I have always thought of him as a handsome and attractive man. Before you assume that I’m another regular, panty-throwin’ housewife, allow me to assure you that this review isn’t based on a previous bias. You can smirk and say “yeah right” under your breath all you want to, but it’s the truth. Bueno!

It saddened me that my friend and I were a little “tardy for the party” and found our seats on Chrisette Michele’s last song, Fragile, from her sophomore album, Epiphany. So instead I will compliment her threads- brown-furred vest with a black long-sleeve underneath, black hot pants and bangin’ boots. Her signature “Sonic the Hedgehog” front swoop short cut (as I’ve coined it) was in full affect and very cute! From what I did hear, she was on point vocally and her stage presence was connected with the small amount of patrons who made their way to their seats at the Verizon Center. A lot of folks were standing in long food and liquor lines in the lobby areas or were late, like us. My feelings weren’t hurt, though, because I’ve seen Chrisette a couple times on stage and seen quite a few of her television performances. I am a huge Chrisette Michele fan and have been since day one and I look forward to the day she’s headlining her own tour.

Next on the bill was Common.. Now, I must admit that I expected to be bored with Common’s performance because A) I don’t own any of his albums. B) I know maybe a handful of his songs and C) I figured my pitfalls of A & B would have me antsy for his set to be done with so Maxwell could get on and do his thing. BOY OH BOY was I in for a RUDE-YET-WONDERFUL AWAKENING! Since Common isn’t bad on the eyes, it was hard for me NOT to pay attention. He had a full band as well as a DJ so that caught my attention as well. It’s always good to hear live instruments interpret midi beats for a more organic and energetic feel of a hip-hop song. Common’s energy matched the music’s and he flowed effortlessly while making everyone in the arena a believer of his music. There were three major highlights of Common’s performance that I want to point out:
1) Super-talented and super-slept-on, Neo-Soul artist, Bilal came on stage and sung the tail-end of “Love’s Holiday” by Earth Wind & Fire.. Now, y’all know ya girl is partial to her old school, ESPECIALLY when it’s coming from one of my favorite bands, “The Elements”, lol! From there the band transitioned into Bilal’s “Soul Sista” instrumentals and Common rapped a verse from his song “Come Close”, then Bilal sang the hook. Later on in the set, Bilal returned to sing the chorus to “The Light”.
2) Common incorporated an “ode-to-Hip-Hop” melody, including classics like Biggie’s “Juicy”, The Fugees’, “Ready or Not” and a host of others. He ended the segment with Michael Jackson’s, “The Way U Make Me Feel” and then allowed his DJ to rip the stage as he exited for a quick wardrobe change.
3) Before ending his show with his latest hit, “Universal Mind Control”, Common delivered a cold and catchy freestyle that had the audience ooh-ing and aah-ing for about a minute-and-a-half. Once the beat dropped with that Planet Rock-ish feel, Common went into a pop-locking frenzy and served it up to the crowd as we cheered. At the end of his verses, he dropped the mic and immediately bust out with some pretty good hand spins and b-boy moves. The greatest moment was when he popped up and posed in the b-boy stance staring at a hysterical crowd on their feet, cheering for the ending of his performance.

Common not only proved my theory wrong but he had me begging for more. My friend and I made a point to look out for the next time he comes into town! I believe he gained a lot of new believers in his music because we weren’t the only ones amazed. Slap me and call me late but please trust that I was not the only one, and after that show, shame on me!
So now to the main attraction…Maxwell! There’s always that long period of time in-between the openers act and the main performers act for set-up. It’s during this time that I’m hoping not only for a good show but that the audio technicians work out the kinks that the previous performers had to endure, so it’s just right for the one we truly paid to see. Mostly, I believe, they take a little extra time just to build the anticipation and the anxiousness in the arena for the artist to feed off of once the curtain goes up. Well, I am pretty sure that the anticipation and expectancy level in that room was on one hundred because Maxwell showed up, showed out, showed around, forwards and backwards!

The opening song of choice was “Phoenix Rise”, the very last track on “Black Summer’s Night”. It’s a spell-binding instrumental that gives the CD a great ending but served up a wonderful entrance piece for the audio-visual show unfolding before our eyes. What appeared as one giant screen on-stage soon split into 4 rectangular screens showing the same picture. Shortly thereafter, the rectangular screens split off by two on opposite sides of the stage and then the two pieces became one, making two big screens to see Maxwell up-close. Then the Verizon Center became black as Maxwell proceeded to the microphone and the main spotlight turned on showing the dapper, thirty-six year old singer donning a black suit, white collar shirt and black tie. It was time for the Maxwell experience! As I stated earlier, I was never a follower of his performances or shows so everything I saw that evening was mind-blowing! I didn’t expect his energy level to be at two hundred as he slid across the stage floor during “Get To Know Ya”. Attached to the stage was a Y-shaped runway which made him accessible to the lucky bastards in the floor seats (the very reason why they were two hundred dineros and up a ticket)! During the inspirational tunings of “This Lifetime”, Maxwell brought a churchy-feel to the song and testified how grateful he was to DC: “if it wasn’t for Washington, D.C. there would be no me. I did my first show at Howard University.” The Chocolate City concert-goers applauded and I fell in love with his humbleness before the crowd.

Next, the unsettled multitude roared in excitement as Maxwell’s immaculate band played the intro to “Bad Habits”. The stage was flooded with red lights to set the mood and Maxwell immediately pulled himself to the floor and started…uh, making love to the stage. I had to grab my girlfriend’s arm and it was at that moment the show went from energetic to saucy! Once his brief encounter with the stage floor (or maybe his imaginary girlfriend) ended, he pulled himself up and asked the band to stop the song. Laughing, obviously at himself, he reported, “I gotta start this song over. Y’all are makin’ me so horny!” Whew! I knew he could feel my presence but I didn’t think it was that strong! J The sauciness did not stop and his energy never dropped one bit, even during the slower songs. It was during the slower moments that it became more intense. At one point of the show, he worked every bit of the runway, popping up from under on each end to serenade fans on the left, right, and center. Maxwell let the naysayers know that he was made for the stage, showcasing his vigorous dance moves coupled with endurance. The ladies on the floor, not once, took a seat during the entire performance- Maxwell was relentless the way he worked the crowd up. Even during “This Woman’s Work”, not one person, female OR male wasn’t singing.. I found that extremely amusing that the song that he’s probably loved the most for by women, men couldn’t resist liking as well. His “mojo” is just that strong. Panties of all colors were being thrown; I just KNEW I was transported back to a Luther Vandross concert, circa 1989!

Not only was the entire stage and runway utilized for the show, Maxwell was able to incorporate his band members in some of the numbers, as well as using props! While performing his very first single, “Til The Cops Come Knockin’”, red siren lights were placed at each end of the runway and spun in syncopation to the beat. At one point in time he did a duet with his one female back-up singer and his horn section/ back-up singers came out for a Temptations-ish kind of act. Maxwell made it clear that his band members weren’t merely his backup but an enhancement of the show, and showed his appreciation by allowing them time to introduce themselves at the end-not just running down a list of names. Just when I thought “Pretty Wings” would be his last piece, Maxwell was caught in the moment of gratitude as the entire crowd stood to their feet with unending cheers, screams and applause. He received more than a standing O- it was an offering of love and he couldn’t receive without giving a piece back. His energy level, probably on three hundred at that moment, compelled him to start singing the first verse of “Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder)” in accapella. The entire arena sung along and the band kicked up and contributed to a mesmerizing encore performance that was the cherry on top of the ice cream cake!

Exactly a week before “Mr. Prit-TAY Wangs” arrival in Washington, D.C. he did a show in Detroit, MI and my family members and friends there would NOT STOP talking about his performance. Since it was not originally in the plans (or the budget) for me to initially attend, I felt they were being dramatic and trying to make me feel bad. That evening as my friend and I were sitting in iHop still on our “Black Summer’s Night” high, I realized what the Maxwell fuss was all about. The feeling was “something-kinda-wonderful” and we wallowed in it over french toast, eggs and hash browns. My Twitter updates were emphatically dramatic but they matched every aspect of Maxwell’s show! He even tweeted a couple days later, “since D.C., ankle’s the size of the stage you saw tonight; swollen. Show must go ON. Perfection is an illusion- effort is divine! Sink or SWIM!” His words echo the very reason for his class act-show and newfound success- bravo Maxwell!

~Ms. LoveLiLi


  1. Damn...I'm so jealous. I missed my man....never again. He's the only other male artist I listen to daily, besides Prince.

  2. He's coming to Baltimore on the 23rd. Check ticketmaster!

  3. I'm going again ;-)