It’s been a minute since I’ve seen Maxwell on a stage that wasn’t in an arena – and let me tell you how glad I am to have that old thing back. He hit up Stifel Theatre Thursday night with his “50 Intimate Nights Tour” and it was everything I could have hoped for and more. First of all, he had that little beanie cap he wore back when he wanted to give his fro a rest during the “Urban Hang Suite” days. And while I was one of the four folks who didn’t care for the hairy-scary Maxwell from back when he made lifelong fans out of us from his Mississippi Nights performance, I must say that I got life from the retro beanie. I still lust for Maxwell with that perfectly tapered Caesar cut, though what I’ve enjoyed of late most of all – he’s maintained a level of fine that the law should not allow to last for 20 years. Okay, back to the show. I guess I will go ahead and jump into the life that was given by way of Marsha Ambrosius for the opening set. I love how she keeps it real –and even though she’s British, she’s ratchet enough for me to feel a kindred spirit. She talks more than I usually care for, but she’s funny and a savage, so I don’t mind. And When I heard her say “petty” with her British accent, I was like, “I have to learn how to say it just like that.” It seemed so much more petty with that extra annunciation on the t – and that’s my level of petty. Her singing was much less “yodely” than usual – and her high notes were life! And while I’m talking about being chatty, Maxwell talked more Thursday night onstage than he has the whole 20 years I have been checking for him combined. I was here for it. Then he got to dropping it like it was hot in those tight, iridescent slacks. If he had worked in two more of those hip swivel drop kicks, the cops woulda had to do more than just come knocking. They would have had to come protect him from me as I attempted to rush the stage. I know y’all still mad he didn’t sing “This Woman’s Work.” But I’d rather him pass on in it than give a struggle-voiced version – which is what we would have received since he had performed 33 times before he got to us.
Maxwell’s STL connection after set. Normally I big up Maxwell’s sickeningly wonderful band when I offer a show recap. But since they gave us our own show, I’ll give them their own item. Did y’all know that the bass and keys of Maxwell’s band are held down by some of St. Louis’ finest? Of course you did. And Shedrick Mitchell and Jon Jon Webb and the rest of his band gave us a nightcap of the life they deliver nightly with a special after set at Voce. Lamar Harris sprinkled his horn magic on the set too. After doing a fully choreographed Soul Train-inspired routine to their extended take on James Brown’s “The Big Payback,” Tracy Smith reminded me why I used to root so hard for her several years back when she stepped to the mic to slay vocals on a rendition of Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy.” She was serving black Cher realness with that fur vest and over-the-knee boots – and vocals that would make your favorite national recording artist sneak out the side door if they were told they would have to follow her on stage. As usual, the folks working the door at Voce give me trouble when I try to show them love – which is why I typically pass on the events there. Let me give a special thanks to my boy Melvin Moore for the co-sign – which they reminded me was the only reason they let me in. Oh well, I’m glad I stopped through, even if it meant my whole Friday morning was one long sleepwalk.
Another scoop of Marsha too. This seems like the Maxwell edition, I’m sure, but I have one more residual from his St. Louis stop. Because his road manager Shawn (a.k.a. Conscious) is also from here, we got an intimate night with Marsha Ambrosius Friday night at BB’s Jazz, Blues and Soups. She came through and did the cutest of sets with Love Jones The Band – which she couldn’t help but be blown away by. She showed up when she felt like it for that alleged 5 p.m. start time, but it was for the best, because Chris, Melvin, Tracy, Kent and Ryan got it all the way in as we waited. And then when she took the stage and gave us all of our life with those vocal instrumentations backed by the band, it was absolutely every single thing.
The return of the Hamiltones. My girl Angel brought back the down home soul sounds of the Hamiltones for her birthday edition of A Night of Soul Searching Sunday night at The Ready Room after they tore the roof off of BB’s a few months back. They got started way late, which ruined the logistics for the rest of my night. Luckily, they were worth it. And Angel got on the mic herself – and had me impressed by somebody’s ability to cover Cee Lo for the second time in one week. This month’s edition had an open mic feel to it. The more conservative crowd was not quite ready for the Redd Foxx after-dark-inspired set Darius Bradford delivered, but they moved on. Tish Haynes Keys tore it up and I got to see Chocolate Thai cover Erykah Badu. Was I the only one who didn’t know she could sing? The Hamiltones hit the stage and had me at hello. They are all handsome, but I have it so bad for the tall one. Even still, I almost got caught up in the seductive side-eye game of the one on guitar. At one point, I was thinking it was specifically for me. I was like, “How you giving the come hither look in the middle of ‘Somebody Roll The Weed?’” But in all seriousness, those men are magical to watch on stage and I will always check for them, whether they are behind their boss Anthony Hamilton, or in their own spotlight.
The LBGTQIA were not playing with Lil Duval. The Pageant cancelled his show following the cringeworthy remarks he made on the Breakfast Club (I don’t have space, so Google it if you don’t know what I’m talking about). Some folks were wondering what would happen when Lil Duval came to the Ambassador Sunday night. Well, I heard that the LGBTQIA folks were not smiling – and made it known that they haven’t forgotten what he said by way of some serious protest action. I also heard that the promoters pulled a solid-sized crowd despite the controversy – and that after he spent a few minutes dragging the Ambassador as a venue he gave an abbreviated set because folks wouldn’t stop recording him with their cell phones.