Artists Kelly Rowland and Goapele, actors Tichina Arnold, Keith Robinson and Tasha Smith and talk show personality Tavis Smiley were among the celebs spotted enjoying a double dose of generational soul at Maxwell’s Hollywood Bowl: Fireworks Finale concert Saturday evening (Sept. 9). The sold-out show, featuring opening act SiR, was the second in Maxwell’s three-night stint at the Bowl.
Wearing a red suit with a double-breasted jacket adorned with sparkling jewels on one shoulder down to its sleeve, and an ear-to-ear smile, Maxwell told the audience, “Thank you for selling out this night, it’s nuts! I’m getting a little less nervous up here. The alcohol is kicking in. But thank you for 27 years.”
Starting the proceedings with one of his signature gems, “Sumthin’ Sumthin’” — accented by a sexy two-step that had the ladies screaming — Maxwell continued to smoothly transport the audience back down a memory lane of hits and fan faves. The setlist included “Dancewitme,” “Fortunate,” “Off,” “Fistful of Tears,” “Lake by the Ocean,” a searing cover of the 1977 Heatwave hit “Always and Forever,” encore closer “Whenever Wherever Whatever” and “Stop the World.” The latter was accented by a churchy organ solo and a cheeky ad-lib, “I’ma tear that ass up tonight,” that sparked cheers and applause.
But three songs in particular garnered rapturous sing-alongs — and further underscored Maxwell’s still-supple tenor and hypnotizing falsetto: “Bad Habits,” “Pretty Wings” and his 1996 hallmark “Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder).” Referencing the string of “oohs” in the latter song’s intro (“What do you know about the ‘oohs’?”), the Grammy winner soon had the audience matching him “ooh” for “ooh” before shifting into full sing-along mode. At one point, just before a dazzling display of fireworks erupted above the Bowl’s shell, an emotional Maxwell said, “This song is as old as some of you in the house tonight.”
Maxwell’s simpatico opening act was SiR. Strolling onstage to enthusiastic yells, the Inglewood, Calif., native kept the audience engaged from start to finish with his soulful tenor that carries a pleasing hint of roughness. Sharing relatable stories about love and life, SiR (who possesses sinuous dance moves of his own) kicked off with “John Redcorn” and then followed with selections from a catalog that includes three studio albums, the most recent being 2019’s Chasing Summer. Among the other crowd-pleasers: “Nothing Even Matters,” “Ooh Nah Nah,” his latest single “Satisfaction,” “Hair Down” and “D’Evils.” Assisting on background vocals: SiR’s mother, Jackie Gouche-Farris, whom he introduced and thanked onstage, and whose backup credits include Michael Jackson and Anita Baker.
Maxwell wraps his three-night Hollywood Bowl run Sunday night (Sept. 10) with opening act Raveena. The series commenced on Friday (Sept. 8) with Pink Sweat$. Maxwell’s upcoming performance slate includes a four-night stand (Oct. 11-14) at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.