A sold-out crowd turned out Friday night for Part 1 of Maxwell’s two-night tour to Atlanta’s Philips Arena.
The first night featured eclectic songstress Erykah Badu, who had to start her set over after serious sound problems with her microphone during the opening song “20 Feet Tall” from her new album, the sonic “New Amerykah Part Two: Return of the Ankh.”
For a while it seemed that Badu was in her own world, hardly connecting with the crowd that didn’t appear familiar with the material she was singing or its flow. Maybe it was the big top hat and the long, black double-breasted jacket that was creating the distraction or at least setting a tone that was certainly different from the lyrics spilling out of her mouth.
She looked like a British toy soldier, but she was singing about unrequited, addictive and desperate love. “I’d pray for you, crochet for you, Make it from scratch for you, Leave out the last for you,” she cooed from “Out My Mind,” also from the new album.
As she took sips of “tea” from a colorful little cup, you were beginning to get the impression that Badu takes herself a little too serious these days, going even deeper out of her neo-soul mind.
But then the “tea” seemed to bring back the real Badu, who began to talk about being gone for a while and what’s she’d been doing: “three babies, different dudes” and “This was my last interview” (showing the crowd the finger she gave the media).
With that, she transformed to the Badu fans know and love with “Didn’t Cha Know” and “… & On” from her sophomore album “Mama’s Gun.” She then shed her formal hat and coat, letting a long reddish mane fall to her shoulders. For the rest of her almost two-hour set, she treated fans to the spicy, sassy, trash-talking, man-loving, manipulating Badu who knows how to hold fans in the palm of hands.
But what about Maxwell, you say?
Not many a headliner would allow his opening act to command more time on stage. Maybe he’s just a gracious tour mate or perhaps Badu does what Badu wants. Regardless, by the time Maxwell came on stage a little after 10 p.m., Badu (and time) had sapped most of the energy out of the arena.
Still, the crowd gave him a wild opening ovation to “Sumthin, Sumthin.” To his credit, Maxwell still has the moves (looking a lot like James Brown with his retro suit and legwork) and still has a great vocal sound and horn section.
But as the night went on, he seemed to know the crowd was fizzling, trying to engage them with constant Atlanta shout outs and even letting the audience take over a good part of the lyrics for one of his best ballads “Woman’s Work.” He reminded fans that when he was in Atlanta last year, the show was crazy, with a couple of women throwing their undergarments on stage. Perhaps the stage set-up prevented the closer contact his female fans live for.
But very few of them left Friday night’s show disappointed, even if the sexual energy was not as intense. His Isley Brothers cover “Don’t say Goodnight (It’s Time for Love)” was certainly a surprise treat. Maybe he’ll make it up with Saturday’s show with Jill Scott.
Are you going to Saturday’s show? If so, check back and tell us what you thought.