Reviewed on Monday August 22
“This one goes out to everyone who made a baby to that first record,” Maxwell announces at one point during his Enmore Theatre show to his adoring crowd. “And also to all those 20-year-old kids here tonight”.
Such an aside is a nod to both Maxwell’s boudoir appeal and his status as a cross-generational maverick. First appearing in 1996 with neo soul classic Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite, the musician has been a consistently classy, if not exactly prolific, presence in soul music.
Tonight’s set is very much a greatest hits parade, dominated by sophisticated, smooth tunes like ‘Lifetime’ and ‘Bad Habits’. The latter begins with some feather-light falsetto, but quickly settles into a gently swinging groove and then branches out into some jazzy interludes.
Everything is done with a perfectionist’s attitude to musicianship and visual flair, Maxwell himself resplendent in a light grey suit, crisp white shirt and rock star sunglasses, sashaying away in front of projected visuals which segue from shooting stars and rocket launches into glittering panoramas of Vegas at night.
More spectacular still is his sparse, ethereal cover of ‘This Woman’s Work’, a performance of which sees Maxwell highlighted in ghostly dual spotlights while sheet music from Kate Bush’s original plays behind him, intercut with an unexpected but moving visual tribute to the Divinyls’ lead singer Chrissy Amphlett.
‘Sumthin’ Sumthin’ is one of the most malleable songs in his repertoire – sometimes appearing as a late night slow jam, sometimes as a banger – but here it’s a showcase for the band, a bubbling, busy number, highlighting the hyper-expressive trumpet work of Keyon Harrold.
The stunning ‘Lake By The Ocean’, however, sees Maxwell take his foot off the pedal in grand style. The strongest track from new record BlackSummers’night, it’s a graceful, mellow marvel, and with Maxwell nailing the fluid falsetto flourishes perfectly, this version is pure silk.
Later, he teases the start of ‘Whenever Wherever Whatever’ before pivoting instead into the gospel inflections of ‘Let The Church Say Amen’, becoming the most dapper person ever to lead an “Aussie, aussie, aussie” chant and finishing with a delicate version of the evergreen ‘Pretty Wings’.
Finally, the band introduce themselves one by one with nods to their home cities (Chicago, Philly, St.Louis, Memphis), a litany of names which reads like a list of America’s greatest soul music cities. It concludes an immaculate show from Maxwell, a crooner some 20 years into his career and still yet to put a foot wrong.