November 7, 2009

V4YS Concert Review - Maxwell - Casino De Paris (Paris, 03/11/09)

Maxwell - Casino de Paris, 11/03/09 (Black Summer's Night Tour)

Hi everyone,

well for the first concert review on the blog I would not have imagined a better start than the truly outstanding Maxwell show I was privileged enough to see yesterday.

I was particularly looking forward this gig for two reasons :
First, Maxwell is one of my true musical "hero". Ever since he released "Urban Hang Suite" in 1996, which I believe is one of the 5 best "nu-soul" albums ever produced, he has been my favorite contemporary soul artist alongside Sade. To me both of them not only sing great soul music, but by the groove and class they convey, they MEAN "Soul".
Second the wait had been very long as the last time Maxwell came to France was 8 to 11 years ago! (can't tell exactly). I just remember the fantastic concert he gave at that time in a rather small venue, "Le Grand Rex". It remains one of my best gig souvenir, adding to the excitement to see him and his band after such a long absence.

This time again he chose a reasonably small venue, an old parisian theatre called "Casino de Paris", a 1200-people beautiful room that helped create a really intimate atmosphere.

The concert :
10-member band on stage, sober set with a white screen in form of sail behind the scene reflecting abstract pictures with warm colours.
Here comes the man in a great suit, still the same incredible voice and charisma on stage, the same sincerely smiling face and groovy dancing style. In fact nothing seems to have changed in 10 years, except the short hair which made me wonder if we should start nickname him "The Barack Obama Of Soul" as he really has the same classy silhouette:)

Anyway, after a great medley intro with "Ascension" and "Sumthin' Sumthin'", they alternated between classics and songs from the new Black Summer's Night album.
Usually this type of rather big shows leave little place for improvisations (we're not talking about a jazz of funk gig here), but yesterday I was positively surprised to see Maxwell having the crowd participate a lot and sometimes asking the band to extend some songs.
My favorite part of the show reflects this. Close to the end, the drummer, bass and keyboards players went on for a 7 or 8-minute groovy break on which horns musicians did solos while Maxwell was improvising funny sexy-style lyrics, playing with the audience. A unique moment.
I was also stunned when I realised that one of the two keyboard musician was Robert Glasper, one of the most talented pianist of current modern jazz scene (, this tells you a lot about the overall quality of his band.

The audience response during all the concert was really incredible and I believe Maxwell was himself surprised of the amount of passion that was in the air. He seemed truly moved by the warm welcome and spent a lot of time talking between songs.
I believe everyone quickly felt this was not a classic concert, that something truly special was going on. The kind of unity that you rarely see. Lots of emotion on both sides of the stage, the impression of a deep reciprocal joy felt by the audience and the band. This may sound a bit esoteric but I guarantee the atmosphere was special.

To conclude (and I promess next reviews will be much shorter:) this gig will for sure remain in my "unforgettable thrills" concert list, alongside, among few others, the one from 10 years ago.
Soul as I love it, smooth, groovy, as we say in french : "la grande classe".

Jmselector, 11/04/09

For those who want a more concrete idea of how it looked, you can check the following video (thanks to kaulifl0wer) :

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