The Deal: The Brooklyn-born soul crooner Maxwell put on a big-budget concert at Time Warner Cable last night (Tuesday, Oct. 6). Vocalist Chrisette Michele and acclaimed rapper Common served as the opening acts.
The Bad: It was pretty obvious from watching Michele and Common perform that the two artists were not used to playing arena-sized rooms; both of them seemed to struggle to make contact with an audience that was far removed from their sight and touch. Michele strained at times in order to belt out tunes at a higher volume, perhaps psychologically trying to compensate for the distance from the fans. And Common, in at least one instance, was forced to lean off the large, V-shaped stage to hold a concertgoers hand for a bit that usually calls for him to make face-to-face contact with one lucky female ticket holder.
The Good: Although, Michele and Common struggled, Maxwell seemed right at home on the massive set, which was rigged with giant, moving video screens and several secret trap doors. And the audience made no bones about its love for the dude, throwing panties at, grabbing the legs of and handing flowers to him as he dashed, dived and danced dramatically around the stage. Truth be told, the dude displayed a ton of charisma. Hell, I even spotted a few seemingly straight guys (they were paired-up with women) who looked like they wanted to give old Maxie a tug job. Anyway, in terms of his setlist, most of the material he sang was from his new disc, but he did a ton of old stuff and saved probably his biggest hit, Ascension, for the encore.
Cameos: Underground soul singer Bilal (of "Soul Sista" fame) served as a background singer for Common but the vocalist seemed a bit more subdued than usual. He's known for running around the stage like a madman, but last night, he either stood in place and sang or slowly shuffled backstage between songs. Weird. Also, another underground soul star by the name of Muhsinah worked the background for Common, punching beats on a laptop-like machine and providing supporting vocals. When she was done performing, she sat in the audience and watched Maxwell ... and no one, it appeared, knew who she was. Cool.
The Verdict: Common and Chrisette Michelle struggled, but Maxwell killed it.