[Originally published in the Boston Herald on September 3, 2009]
A lot of Maxwell fans went home disappointed on Wednesday night. Not because of anything the sexy r & b dynamo did.
A free Maxwell show at the House of Blues billed as part of the Samsung AT&T Summer Krush concert series resulted in a line stretching the length of Lansdowne Street by the afternoon. Eager fans – desperate may be closer to the truth – stood waiting in hope of gaining entrance.
Unfortunately, the entire mob couldn’t squeeze into the 2,425-capacity venue – and having a ticket didn’t guarantee access.
Those who did get inside found the three-level venue stuffed with women waiting for their personal serenade, watchful male chaperones, and other men who came on their own, possibly looking to glean some tips on how sexy is done with style.
Maxwell likely satisfied all of them.
Setting a standard for class as well as crooning, the 36-year-old star sported a suit and sunglasses onstage. The sunglasses came off early. Despite the fact that he was visibly sweating by the third song, “Bad Habits,” most of the suit stayed on. Maxwell simply removed his jacket, toweled himself off with a pair of black panties tossed onstage and kept going.
There would be no shirt-removal sessions, and, rather than talk up his comeback album “BLACKsummers’night,” Maxwell let the music speak for itself.
There was the poignant No. 1 single “Pretty Wings,” “Stop the World,” “Cold” and his nod to altruism, “Help Somebody.”
Though Maxwell is the superstar of the show, he deferred to his nimble nine-piece band frequently, letting the musicians take the reins on instrumental opening number “Phoenix Rise,” another stellar cut from his first new release in eight years.
Throughout the night, the Brooklyn-born soul specialist seemed almost as giddy as the concertgoers who managed to squeeze into the venue, strutting and smiling as video cameras tracked his every move. On the funk-soul stomp “Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder),” he busted out some James Brown-worthy dance moves and managed to pull off a full split in his suit.
The hourlong set gave him just enough time to introduce several new songs while indulging in a few classics, among them the falsetto serenade of “This Woman’s Work” and the R. Kelly-penned ballad “Fortunate,” which had at least two males in the audience singing out to their significant others through the phone.
The only ones dissatisfied never made it inside.