Friday, December 6, 2013

Seven Random Thoughts About Maxwell's Cape Town Concert Last Night

1. It was such a good night last night, until the news broke that Nelson Mandela, South Africa's former President who, for years, had been the epitome of a true living legend, passed away at age 95 at his home in Johannesburg. I'm sure the mood at Maxwell's show there tomorrow night (December 7) will be much more somber, and the singer will pay proper tribute to the icon who meant so much to so many people in this country, and around the world.

2. It never ceases to amaze or impress me when audiences whose first language may or may not be English know all the words. I'm still trying to figure out how all those folks in Buenos Aires a few years ago nailed the lyrics to Kylie Minogue's greatest hits while I fumbled through the choruses. The predominantly black African crowd at Maxwell's December 5 show at GrandWest Casino in Cape Town, many of whom, as Maxwell pointed out, were probably born around the time that he released his first album (1996), not only knew nearly all the words to every song he sang over the course of about 90 minutes, but on "Til the Cops Come Knockin'," his second South African single and his U.S. debut, they actually sang the verses for him. When he said, "This is the best show of my life!" I had a feeling he meant it.

3. By far the biggest reaction and the loudest, most enthusiastic singalong came during "This Woman's Work," a non-hit from 2001's Now that might be Maxwell's best-known song. I wonder if last night's audience knew that it's actually a Kate Bush song (the one that closed the cassette and vinyl versions of her 1989 album The Sensual World, following its appearance in the 1988 Kevin Bacon film She's Having a Baby). Maxwell sang it and soaked up the praise like it was all his own, which at this point, since Bush spends years at a time in hiding and hasn't toured since 1979, it might as well be. I was hoping he'd at least credit her with writing it. He didn't.

4. Maxwell, more so than Usher before him on "My Boo," brings out the sexy in Alicia Keys, a beautiful, talented singer who has never exactly oozed sex appeal. As she touched herself on the big screen, in a specially pre-taped video in which she performed her parts of "Fire We Make," her duet with Maxwell from this year's Girl on Fire album, she set the stage ablaze. Even when Maxwell was doing the singing, and Keys was just hovering in the background, caressing her breasts, I couldn't take my eyes off her.

5. Do women really still throw their underwear onstage at hunky soul balladeers? Apparently so, if the black bra that Maxwell was fondling at one point last night was any indication. Did he really have to smell it and cover his face with it, though? Gross!

6. Did I blink and miss "Whenever, Wherever, Whatever"?

7. It's been four years since Maxwell's last album, 2009's BLACKsummers'night, which came eight years after his previous opus. But clearly South African R&B fans never forget. Last night on the taxi ride back into the city, two of the ladies I was with were talking about great recent concerts they've seen when one dropped an old-school name that I so wasn't expecting to hear: Joe. Joe. Yes, Joe, who, like Maxwell, turned 40 this year, released a new album (Doubleback: Evolution of R&B) in June, but he's 13 years removed from his commercial heyday. When my friend Odidi introduced me to one of the women before the show, she said I looked like Maxwell's brother. When we parted ways, she looked at me standing in the moonlight, and declared me the splitting image of Joe. So what if the three of us look nothing alike? I took her compliments -- They were compliments, right? -- and ran with them, home, smiling.

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