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Concert Reviews:
Maxwell, Jill Scott Bring Sweet Soul Music To The Palace
 

By GARY GRAFF
of the Oakland Press

» See more SOUND CHECK

AUBURN HILLS -- Neo Soul royalty came to the Palace on Saturday night (May 22), but Maxwell and Jill Scott ultimately proved that the contemporary R&B movement has plenty of old school virtues.

Which is a good thing.

Love, lost love, social consciousness, spirituality and, yes, libido were front and center as the two East Coast singer-songwriters strutted stuff from accomplished and eventful careers. For Maxwell the tour is something of a victory lap, basking in the success of "BLACKsumer'snight," which broke an eight-year drought in 2009 with platinum sales and two Grammy Awards.

Scott, meanwhile, is in relaunch mode; her first tour in nearly two years comes as she prepares to release her fourth studio album, "The Light of the Sun," later this year. She's also celebrating the start of an acting career and the birth of her first child, son Jett, in 2009 but is also recovering from two break-ups during the past three years.

Maxwell was certainly aware of his tourmate's situation on Saturday night. singing a couple of songs -- "Til the Cops Come Knockin'" and "Don't Say Goodnight" -- directly to Scott as she watched from the front row, he paused to tell her that "you are a legend...and you just need to know how much you are loved" before urging the crowd to give Scott a standing ovation.

It was a class touch on a night that mixed polished stagecraft and raw emotion. The latter came mostly during Scott's 80-minute set, which she and her 11-piece band -- plus two silhouetted dancers -- fueled with powerful, poetic anthems of empowerment and occasional angst. Sporting a spangly dress, tight leggings, massive triangular earrings and shades, Scott rocked her way through the slinky groove of "Gimme," the rocking energy of "The Real Thing" and the aggressive attitude of "Whatever" before down-shifting into the jazzy flow of "It's Love," which built to a fierce, sweaty workout. "Ain't nothing wrong with some sweat -- for a good cause," Scott noted with a grin.

She did shed some genuine tears before "He Loves Me" while thanking the crowd for its support, and Scott previewed a couple of new songs -- "I Love You" and "Here My Call," the latter accompanied only by piano. "Golden" closed her set with a rambunctious dance party flavor that morphed into a bit of Steve Wonder's "Living For the City."

Maxwell, meanwhile, generated similar heat but in a more spit-polished kind of way. Nattily attired in a gray sports coat and slacks, with a white shirt and skinny gray tie, he was all foot slides and swivel hips as he and his 10-piece band -- which included a particularly funky three-piece horn section -- grooved into his 85-minute show by seguing smoothly from "Sumthin' Sumthin' " into "Get to Know Ya" into "Cold" without catching their breath. He worked the front of the stage, pressing the flesh during "This Woman's Work" and fused "Helpsomebody" and "Fistfuloftears" -- two of the six songs he played from "BLACKsummer'snight," into a socio-politial commentary, accompanied by appropriate images on a tall screen at the back of the stage.

His abundantly female following swooned during slow jams such as "Lifetime," Reunion" and "Fortunate," but the set's best moment was "Stop the World," rendered in a powerful, silky arrangement spiced by an acoustic-guitar led coda. "Ascension (Don't Ever Wonder)" and the encore "Pretty Wings" were proverbial icing on the cake, taking this soulful pre-summer's night out in fine fashion.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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