Last Night: Maxwell, Common at American Airlines Center

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Maxwell, Common
American Airlines Center
October 12, 2009

Better than: Relying on your weak-ass game to get some action tonight.

It goes without saying that the majority of the crowd that gathered at the American Airlines Center to witness Maxwell in his crooning, shuffling, smiling greatness were women.The sprinkling of men who were there were on dates (or "date night"), and the headliner knew this.

And, lucky for them, In light of the rolling sea of feminine screaming and nearby swooning, as the singer promised nasty-dirty-stanky love, he still positioned himself to be the ultimate wingman.

Svelte in a slim-cut black suit--and with his musical entourage looking equally spiffy--Maxwell's performance had a classy, Rat Pack vibe to it. And the singer happily two-stepped to "Sumthin' Sumthin'" during the opening songs of his set, getting off to a lively start.

However, he didn't wait long to whip out the sex appeal, dramatically lowering the mic stand so he could kneel and drag out the last few coercing lines of "Bad Habits." Not soon after, he abandoned his sport coat so he could get down to business--the business of "spreading this thing wide open," he said. (Wonder if he was talking about his set or something else...)

"Fortunate" summoned the crowd singing he'd been looking for on "Bad Habits," and despite battling a cold he struck some pretty impressive falsetto notes on "Playing Possum."

Speaking of falsettos: When the arena went dark and the opening piano notes of "This Woman's Work" began, Maxwell's initial coos were nearly overpowered by the crowd's screams of approval. You could nearly sense the relief in his tone when he retreated to the alto portions of the song. He sounded beautiful the entire time, but you could tell that he had to fight for it at some points.

He closed the show with "Pretty Wings" and the audience was showered in feather-shaped confetti. He wasn't gone long before returning for an encore performance of "Ascension (Don't Ever Wonder)."

Critic's Notebook
Personal bias:
I was impressed that an artist whose catalog is that mellow as Maxwell's could pull off the reciprocal crowd energy I feel is critical to a good performance.

Random note: If you weren't ready to go get a room after that rendition "'Til The Cops Come Knockin'," you didn't have a pulse.

By the way: Common's pop-locking and backspin during "Universal Mind Control" were great.

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