Photo Credit : Derek Baker
After a successful appearance at The Kennedy Center in 2019, R&B crooner Maxwell returned for a second five-night residency. Titled "Maxwell: A Night at the Symphony," the show features Maxwell collaborating with conductor Steven Reineke and arranger Tim Davies to bring an orchestral feel to some of the most popular tunes from his five-album catalog.
I enjoyed seeing Maxwell live last year with fellow crooners Joe and Anthony Hamilton as part of The Night Tour. However, whenever an R&B artist hits The Kennedy Center for a collaboration with the NSO Pops, the event is a must-attend. The concert began with Maxwell's entrance, dressed in a sharp black tuxedo and trademark afro. A loud round of applause greeted him as he took the stage to perform his first song, "Bad Habits." Confidently singing, he danced across the stage and engaged in witty banter with the audience.
A smooth transition into one of his biggest hits, "Fortunate," was up next, where he incorporated elements of the classic Prince slow jam "Do Me, Baby," which transitioned into "Lifetime" and, to my delight, the mellow smooth remix of "Sumthin Sumthin." After the trifecta of slow jams, Maxwell was ready to work his knees! He hit the audience with a one-two punch of the original version of "Sumthin. Sumthin" and "Get To Know Ya." Both songs were crowd-pleasers and had the audience swaying to their smooth rhythm.
One of the most pleasant surprises of Maxwell's performance was the inclusion of several of his lesser-known songs in his setlist. Among these were selections from his sophomore album, "Embrya," which is often misunderstood by many listeners. The songs he performed from this album included "Gravity: Pushing to Pull," which showcased his vocal range and ability to hit high notes effortlessly. Additionally, he performed "Symptom Unknown" and "W/As My Girl" from his third album.
Another highlight of the evening, however, was Maxwell's rendition of the iconic ballad "Always and Forever." The audience was treated to a harmonious sing-along version of the song, which left many feeling nostalgic and emotional. The performance was a testament to Maxwell's talent as a singer and his ability to connect with his audience.
Of course, it isn't a Maxwell show without going back to his 1996 debut, so when he performed "Whenever Wherever Whatever," "Till The Cops Come Knockin," and "Ascension (Don't Ever Wonder")," the crowd lost it and sang every lyric note for note. Astonishingly, his cover of Kate Bush's "This Woman's Work wasn't in the setlist as it would have sounded great with an orchestra. Maxwell closed out the show with "Pretty Wings."
Maxwell's return to The Kennedy Center was a well-rounded mix of his popular hits and lesser-known gems. The audience was left thoroughly entertained and impressed by his musical prowess.
Final Grade : A