A force of nature slammed into Columbia, SC, Wednesday July 30, but in a very good way. Gerald Maxwell Rivera, better known as soul singer Maxwell, brought his Summer Soulstice Tour 2014 to the Township Auditorium, leaving the audience stunned and delighted.
This is Maxwell’s first major tour since 2010 and his music just gets better with time. The opening act was Kevin Ross, a young singer out of Washington, DC. He is making strides in the music industry and seems to be the whole package.
It has to be intimidating to open for a talent like Maxwell, but Ross held his own. He sang a selection of songs that showed his vocal range nicely. He covered “Before I Let Go” by Frankie Beverly and Maze, as well as some of his own music. He did some ballads and then ramped it up with some hip hop. All in all Ross was a pleasant surprise as opening acts go, and he is definitely one to watch.
The only downside of the whole evening was the overly long intermission. At first people milled around in the lobby softly grumbling. Then the crowd gave in to its impatient anticipation by stomping the floor, clapping their hands and yelling “Maxwell” to the top of their lungs.
There’s a saying that music soothes the savage beast and, in this case, it was certainly true. The lights dimmed and suddenly all was forgiven. Maxwell glided onto the stage in a fitted suit reminiscent of the greats like Eddie Kendricks and David Ruffin. It was like he appreciated his audience and had come dressed to impress. No stumbling out in sneakers and torn t-shirts for this artist. He immediately conveyed the message that this was going to be an elegant and first class concert extraordinaire.
Maxwell bonded with the audience. In between the songs he spoke about the times when he was 19 and bussing tables in restaurants. He talked about never giving up on your dreams and how he finally got his break in the music industry. He came across as gracious, grateful, and humble. He thanked the audience for their support over the years from his debut album Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite in 1996 to now. His rapport with the audience and theirs with him was one of mutual love and respect.
The band was on point and provided a seamless tapestry to the musical storytelling that is Maxwell’s gifted birthright. From 1996 to 2014, Maxwell took the crowd there and brought them back. Being energy personified, he worked every inch of that stage making everyone feel that he was singing especially to them. The set was beautiful with moving pictures and waterfalls blending in with the music beat by beat.
And the vocals had the crowd like putty in Maxwell’s hands. When he crescendoed, the crowd roared. When he falsettoed, the crowd purred like kittens. All of the songs were good, but he outdid himself on “Lifetime”, “Ascension”, “Fortunate”, “Bad Habits”, “The Fire We Make”, and “This Woman’s Work”.
On “This Woman’s Work” he gave tribute to the original singer Kate Bush by standing silent as her voice sang the opening verse. When he turned around and started singing where she left off the moment was as magical as if she’d personally passed the torch of that song to Maxwell to bring it full bloom.
“Fistful of Tears” was a theatrical work of art in itself. By the time Maxwell had wrung the emotions of the crowd like a dryer on high spin cycle, tears were about the only currency they had left to give. Then like a desert mirage, Maxwell bid the audience goodnight and was gone. There might as well have been quicksand on the floor of the auditorium because not a soul could make a move to leave. Then the chants of “Maxwell, Maxwell” started up and the beautiful one was back.
Maxwell teased and cajoled. He did the crowd like the words of the song. He played them dirty, he toyed with their affliction, but then he tenderly released them to fly their “Pretty Wings” around. But they will forever remember his smile and the silky smooth musical instrument that is the voice of Maxwell.
If you want to be a part of this magnificent experience, here are the remaining dates of Maxwell’s Summer Soulstice Tour 2014.