Yet despite being a fan, I’d never actually attended a Maxwell concert. For one thing, Maxwell rarely comes to the 757, so there hadn’t been a lot of opportunities in the past to see him. So his nearly sold-out show at Chrysler Hall a couple of Fridays ago was highly anticipated by not only his stans, but by this long-time music critic as well. And though my expectations were already pretty high, the Brooklyn native easily surpassed them. Quite simply, Maxwell is a soul music dynamo who puts on a remarkable live show.
Dubbed the Summer Soulstice Tour 2014, the Gemini’s stop here in Norfolk featured DC native Kevin Ross as the opener. Ross is definitely a young-un, but he still has some impressive vocal chops. The best part of his nearly 30 minute set was the couple of covers that he did, including his take on a Maze Featuring Frankie Beverly classic. Once his set was over, the intermission leading to the arrival of Maxwell was a tad long, but once he hit the stage with his seven piece band at 9:20 (the concert started shortly after 8:00), none of that time mattered. Wearing a European cut, gray colored three-piece suit, Gerald Maxwell Rivera was kicking ass from his very first note.
Now the audience that enthusiastically greeted him was primarily made up of African-American women of course, but there were a decent amount of us dudes as well. And what really impressed me was the broad range of ages that were represented that night. Though largely populated with Gen-Xers like me, in our late thirties or early forties, there were a large amount of twenty-somethings as well.
What Maxwell gave this packed house were the hits…and only the hits. Unlike what had been initially reported by some press outlets, Maxwell is not performing any of his new music. It’s been 5 years since the release of his last studio album, the mega-selling BLACKsummers’night. He’s said in recent interviews that the new album will be entitled Summers, and that it will definitely be released sometime later this year. I am definitely not convinced of that, but I was perfectly satisfied hearing Maxwell expertly perform much of his mighty catalog Friday night.
Pretty much all of his singles were performed, including classics like “Sumthin’ Sumthin”, “Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder)”, the Kate Bush cover, “This Woman’s Work”, the R. Kelly penned smash, “Fortunate”, and the predictable encore, “Pretty Wings”. The audience was turnt up for the very sexual, but tastefully performed “Bad habits”, while “Lifetime” served as the classic sing-along moment in the show.
Overall, what Maxwell does is play to his largely female fan-base, but because of the high musicality of his artistry, from his remarkable tenor range, to his still athletic, groove based dancing at 41; heterosexual guys are not left out of the experience of his erotic magnetism. And that’s wherein Max also reminds me of Marvin. His aesthetics are clearly intended for the fairer sex, but his art is on such a high level that even a music geek like me can appreciate the rich nature of his work. And quite frankly, the man had me at Nor-fuck, which he properly pronounced many times during his 90 minute set. Cause as the Big O says, the love is in the details.
For more of Seven Venues events, here is their concert calendar.