Wearing sunglasses, a tailored black suit, crisp white shirt and tie, he strutted onstage as cool as a cucumber to “DanceWitMe.” But within mere seconds, Maxwell was turning up the heat — running up and down stairs on the set, sliding across the floor, and sweating as he described later “like a pig.” (See photo gallery)
For the sold-out crowd at Philips Arena Monday night, the temperature couldn’t get hot enough as the R&B singer showed fans just what they’d been missing during his almost eight-year hiatus, especially for fans who didn’t get to see his sold-out show at the Atlanta Civic Center last year.
“Atlanta, I love you baby,” he said. “Y’all didn’t let me go by the wayside.”
For one hour and forty-five minutes, the 36-year-old from Brooklyn was 20-something again, taking fans on his earlier neo soul journey with “Sumthin’ Sumthin’” and “Ascension,” the 1996 hit single that put his debut album “Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite,” on the map.
Some of the stops along the way also included hits from 2001’s “Now,” including the dance groove “Get to Know Ya,” “Lifetime,” and “Woman’s Work,” one of the most beautiful ballads ever. He also wove his way through his latest album “BlackSummer’s Night,” including tracks such as “PrettyWings,” “HelpSomebody,” “StopTheWorld,” and “FistfulofTears.”
With women tugging at his feet as he danced and gyrated down a runway shaped stage that had several dropped floor entry/exit points, he teased endlessly. The performance was sexy, polished and in a word — hot.
Telling the fellows that he hoped they’d get some action after the concert, he acknowledged, “I know most of y’all didn’t want to come. That’s cool. I’d hate me, too.”
But there were no haters here as the men seemed to appreciate the mood Maxwell was setting. At one point, he encouraged couples to “get up and dance like nobody’s watching.” Yes, some obliged.
For certain, by all appearances it was a newer Maxwell who’s been sporting a short cropped haircut since his return. Unlike Sampson, his strength is not in his hair but in his voice, his impressive dance moves (which caused him to split his pants near the end of the show), and perhaps, well a few other places.
And if Maxwell was burning up the stage it was rapper Common and songstress Chrisette Michele who lit the fire. Initially Maxwell fans seemed a little confused as Common seized the stage, pumping things up with “Go!” and “Sex 4 Sugar” before gliding into “I Want You.” But by the end of his performance he’d won the crowd over solidly as he took them on a nostalgic trip down hip-hop lane with classics from Eryka Badu, LL Cool J, Heavy D and Atlanta’s own Goodie Mob.