The perfect man does not exist in reality, but if he did, he?d probably be a little sumthin? sumthin? like Maxwell. Harnessing the perfect concoction of modesty, confidence and unapologetic vulnerability (and did we mention the voice of an angel?), it?s no surprise that the soulful singer/songwriter maintains a fan base that is notorious for teeter-tottering into obsession. Last night, in a warm, packed room full of cooing and swooning in East Harlem, Maxwell brought the house down during a performance that, according to him, was literally ?fifteen years in the making.?
“We share a birthday,” announced VH1 Storytellers Executive Producer and show creator Bill Flanagan to the room of sweat-glistened super-fans during the taping?s introduction. And we do! Just as VH1 celebrates fifteen years of Storytellers, Maxwell celebrates the same milestone of time for surviving in the music industry- an achievement that started off when he was only a teenager. Making disclaimers about being nervous, scared, and reluctant to comfortably discuss his craft, the charismatic singer joked that he wished Oprah was there to help him verbalize his thoughts, openly confessing “this is not my forte” at the onset. But as he began knocking out a set list that was heavy with double-platinum, debut album Maxwell?s Urban Hang Suite tracks, ?Max? from Brooklyn, New York? loosened up quickly, comparing the experience to being on Twitter (but with real avatars), and began to discuss the moments in his career that birthed the baby-making music he?s heralded for.
Striving to become a better songwriter is a constantly-evolving process for the sensual soul singer, and he cited both the unfortunate nature of tragedy and the beautiful impact of love for providing him with endless inspiration. Mentioning specific songwriting collaborations with Sade band member and producer Stuart Matthewman, songwriter and producer Leon Ware (Marvin Gaye, Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones), and producer and musician Hod David (who was on-site, performing in Maxwell?s phenomenal band), Maxwell even described details of writing songs in a ?cold, freezing? Lower East Side apartment early on in his career. ?You could have walked in and robbed us!? he exclaimed recalling the demoralizing surroundings, also noting that Debbie Harry and Iggy Pop had lived there at one point as well. The rich soul influences that helped nurture Maxwell?s creativity did not go unmentioned, either; when he covered an Isley Brothers song, he made it very clear that their music had greatly inspired him, asserting that his rendition was barely worth the applause bestowed upon him by the audience. ?Charity clapping,? he called it.
?It?s not about celebrity, it’s about artistry,? insisted Maxwell at the close of last night?s 90-minute taping. Pretty wise words from a sensual crooner known for making hoards of women weak in the knees, wouldn?t you say? But the truth is, between the many seductive ad-libs and erotic, slow-motion crotch-thrusts, he?d been alluding to that sentiment all evening, and you could tell he meant it. To see all of the moments captured at Maxwell?s VH1 Storytellers —including an impromptu addition to the already-amazing set list and a sexy, spontaneous dance party where he invited audience members to join him on stage— tune-in on Friday, June 17th at 11 p.m. ET/PT. And just in case things get a little steamy, we strongly advise that you keep protection nearby.
SETLIST: “Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder)” / “Bad Habits” / “Drowndeep/Reunion Medley” / “…Til The Cops Come Knockin’/Don’t Say Goodnight” / “Whenever Wherever Whenever” / “Fistful of Tears” / “Sumthin’ Sumthin'”/ “Get To Know Ya” / “Pretty Wings”
[Photo Credit: Pegah Rashti]