by Calvin Cox
It has only been seven months since Maxwell last paid a visit to the Scottrade Center, but that didn't stop his fans from coming out in droves last night. Then again, this was no carbon copy of last October's concert; this time, instead of Chrisette Michelle and Common, Maxwell was accompanied by Jill Scott (who could probably pack an arena on her own). There were a lot of sharp-dressed couples and groups of women, mostly aged 30 and over. A stage extension with rising platforms -- one of the cooler features of Maxwell's last show -- was replaced by a more basic setup, presumably to sell more seats on the floor.
Homegrown comedian Guy Torry got things started at 7 p.m. on the dot, running through a brief but entertaining routine that included a song about "big areolas" (sung to the tune of "Guantanamera"). After giving some advice on underwear selection (white underwear tells all your business) and ripping on the Rams, a mere twenty minutes had elapsed and he was done.
Jill Scott made her entrance in a silver-sequined top, tight leather pants and designer shades. On either side of the stage was a dancing female silhouette, almost go-go style. Scott typically gives off a more "organic" vibe in her music videos and on her HBO show, The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency -- a stark contrast to her glammed-out stage persona. Regardless of her appearance, her music was the same as it has always been; thoughtful, emotional, and soulful.
In a 90-minute set, Scott drew on a catalogue that reaches back a decade, including favorites like "Long Walk," "Golden" and "Cross My Mind." She introduced new songs that are part of an upcoming project and showed off her versatility with a very operatic solo. Some of the subtleties of her super-smooth neo-soul instrumentals may have been lost by the sheer volume of the sound system, but her voice was every bit as flawless live as it is in the studio.
The headlining act was preceded by a long intermission, while the crew set up five smaller video screens behind center stage, in addition to the giant one that was already there. A neat trick, but the visuals were unspectacular.
Maxwell was greeted with the same warm welcome he received last fall -- which is to say the women went ballistic and commenced throwing their panties as soon as he appeared. I said it last October and I'll say it again: The experience of watching Maxwell perform must be something like seeing Marvin Gaye 30 years ago. Not too much has changed about his stage performance, though he did a good job of mixing up the setlist, even throwing in a cover of the Isley Brothers' classic "Don't Say Goodnight (It's Time for Love)."