Under a full moon holding court over an Indian summer night, the intoxicating nuances of R&B/soul filled the Hollywood Bowl to overflowing Friday evening (Oct. 6), as uniquely interpreted by headliner Maxwell and special guests Raphael Saadiq and Jazmine Sullivan. And the trio will no doubt repeat the magic when they appear at the Concord Pavilion in Concord, Calif., Sunday night (Oct. 8).
The Hollywood Bowl’s full house, dotted with its own galaxy of stars from Halle Berry and Anthony Anderson of Black-ish to Wilmer Valderama and Chaka Khan, had already reached the boiling point thanks to Saadiq’s and Sullivan’s percolating performances (more on that later).
So when Maxwell finally hit the stage around 9:15 p.m., the female-dominant crowd erupted in a fevered frenzy as his silky falsetto slid into the opening verse of “Pretty Wings.”
No one can bend and flex his lithe physique like Maxwell (or his supple tenor/falsetto, for that matter), nattily attired in a navy blue double-breasted suit. His cool, sexy moves set off new waves of screams each time — especially when he hopped offstage to dance and sing up close to fans.
Throughout the night, Maxwell also prompted ardent singalongs as well as he segued into faves that still sound fresh: “Bad Habits” (improvising “You’re my bad habit, L.A.” at one point), “Ascension,” “Fortunate,” “Sumthin’ Sumthin’,” and “This Woman’s Work.”
During “Work,” performed while standing inside a cone-shaped spotlight, Maxwell paid homage “to all the victims in Las Vegas.” His set also featured cuts from current album blackSUMMERS’night, including a remix version of “Lake by the Ocean” and “Gods.” The last song ended with another reference to the week’s earlier tragedy: “Power to the people,” Maxwell said. “True power is in the creation of life, not death.”
Backing him throughout was his always-tight band featuring longtime collaborator and multi-instrumentalist Hod David.
After performing his 1996 debut single, “…Til the Cops Come Knockin’,” Maxwell waxed nostalgic about his journey from Brooklyn waiter to the Hollywood Bowl. “Yeah, I used to pick up your dirty-ass plates,” the 44-year-old said to laughter. “I’ve been doing this for 21 years and still can’t believe this shit.”
Raphael Saadiq, whose own career began 30 years ago as a touring bassist with Prince, also proved that age is nothing but a number. Between vogueing with his two female backup singers, slipping and sliding across the stage in his black-and-white patterned slacks and sleeveless fishnet T-shirt and breaking out his bass to play a few riffs, the energetic Saadiq took fans on a pleasurable trip through his multi-faceted career.
First reminding the audience of his solo turn on signature songs such as “Still Ray,” “Be Here, “Movin’ Down the Line” and “Good Man,” Saadiq shifted back to his days as a member of the 1999 R&B supergroup Lucy Pearl with a rollicking performance of “Dance Tonight.” Then asking the audience if they’d like to join him on a “ride in my car at 2 a.m.,” Saadiq dialed the clock all the way back to the late ’80s and his work with the seminal trio Tony! Toni! Toné!
That stop featured the tracks “(Lay Your Head on My) Pillow” and “Anniversary” before Saadiq whipped out his bass to punctuate key collaborations with other artists, among them <a href=”/music/dangelo”>D’Angelo</a> (“Untitled [How Does It Feel]”) and Solange (“Cranes in the Sky”). Saadiq closed his too-short 45-minute set with another song from his 2002 Instant Vintage album, “Skyy, Can You Feel Me,” and his own well-deserved standing ovation.
Relative newcomer Jazmine Sullivan more than held her own during her debut stint at the Hollywood Bowl. Dressed in a siren-red pantsuit, the singer/songwriter launched full-force into her back-to-back 2008 hits “Bust Your Windows” and “Lions, Tigers & Bears” before delivering her quietly commanding take on the classic “Killing Me Softly.” The singer/songwriter then proceeded to stir up fans once more as they sang along to “Need U Bad” and “Insecure” featuring Bryson Tiller, created for the popular HBO show of the same name starring Issa Rae.