From ‘Urban Hang Suite’ to the Hollywood Bowl: A Weekend of Maxwell’s Timeless Artistry REVIEW+PHOTOS: Maxwell & Pink Sweat$ at Hollywood Bowl 9/8/23
LOS ANGELES, CA- Amidst the stars of the city of angels, there lay an oasis of nostalgia and impeccable showmanship as the prodigious Maxwell took center stage at the iconic Hollywood Bowl. For those lucky enough to embark on this sonic journey on that fated Friday night, it was nothing short of a neo-soul filled, religious experience.
College memories can often be tied to an album, and for many, it was Maxwell’s “Maxwell’s Urban Hang Suite” that served as the backdrop to their formative years; my freshman year in college in particular. The album is nothing less than a neo-soul bible, and its imprints on the genre can still be felt today. For those like me, it was more than just an album; it was an entry into sensuality, romance, and the deeply woven fabric of R&B that touches the soul.
Maxwell’s repertoire is not just about music; it’s an evocative journey through sensuality and the intricate tapestry of human emotion. His melodies often play like whispered secrets between lovers, weaving together the delicate threads of romance, longing, and vulnerability. The effortless blend of neo-soul and R&B in tracks like “Pretty Wings” or “Ascension” plunges the listener into a world where every note feels like a caress, and every lyric is an intimate confession. With his honeyed vocals and poignant songwriting, Maxwell masterfully captures the ethereal essence of sensuality, making it palpable, almost tactile, in its presence.
Beyond the mere lyrics and melody, there’s an innate elegance and sophistication in the way Maxwell approaches sensuality. It’s never overt or brash, but rather a simmering undercurrent that courses through his work. Songs like “Whenever Wherever Whatever” exemplify this subtle touch, wherein the emotions conveyed are profound yet wrapped in a blanket of understated elegance. In doing so, Maxwell doesn’t just sing about sensuality; he embodies it, allowing listeners to not merely hear, but deeply feel the passion and intensity he brings to every track.
The Hollywood Bowl was in for a soulful treat.
Before delving into Maxwell’s electrifying performance, we must tip our hats to Pink Sweat$. With a suite of tracks that ranged from the intoxicating rhythms of “Icy” to the heart-wrenching lyrics of “At My Worst”, Pink Sweat$ set the tone for the evening, leaving the crowd warmed up and ready for the main act.
Pink Sweat$ (born David Bowden) is a singer-songwriter hailing from Philadelphia. With a name inspired by his fondness for pink sweatpants, he has quickly carved a niche for himself in the modern R&B landscape.
His music can best be described as a melodic concoction of minimalist R&B, soul, and pop. Pink Sweat$’ tracks often feature stripped-down instrumentals – think delicate guitar riffs or subtle piano chords – that allow his velvety, emotive vocals to take center stage. This bare arrangement is a refreshing departure from the heavily produced tracks of his contemporaries, allowing listeners to engage deeply with the raw emotion and storytelling in his lyrics.
As the first notes of “Phoenix Rising” reverberated through the air, it was evident that the evening was set to be a masterclass in artistry. Maxwell, with his honeyed vocals and charismatic charm, held the audience in a rapturous trance. Those infectious bass lines from “Ascension” that once dominated the airwaves? They proved just as seductive now as they did in the heydays of 90s radio, but this time they were complemented by a shower of glorious fireworks, eliciting gasps of awe and admiration.
It wasn’t just the hits, though, that made the night special. Maxwell’s nod to timeless music, prefacing his rendition of “Always And Forever” with the assertion that good songs are eternal, was a poignant moment. And it’s hard to argue when you hear him make the classic ballad his own.
Yet, what undoubtedly made the evening a once-in-a-lifetime event was the unexpected appearance of Stuart Matthewman during “Whenever Wherever Whatever”.
Stuart Matthewman, commonly known for his involvement in the iconic band Sade, is a British musician and songwriter. He played a significant role in the formation and success of Sade, contributing as a guitarist and saxophonist. Matthewman’s expertise in blending smooth jazz with soul and R&B is a hallmark of the band’s signature sound, which has made tracks like “Smooth Operator” and “No Ordinary Love” timeless classics.
It’s the deep connection between Stuart Matthewman and the neo-soul movement that makes his appearance at the Hollywood Bowl for Maxwell’s “Whenever Wherever Whatever” incredibly special. Matthewman’s influence on the genre and Maxwell’s reverence for it creates a full-circle moment: a tribute to the roots of neo-soul and a recognition of its enduring legacy.
For fans aware of these connections, seeing Stuart Matthewman join Maxwell on stage would have been a profound moment, merging two generations of soulful sounds and celebrating the interconnected web of musical influences that have shaped the neo-soul genre.
Reflecting on the concert, it’s hard to overlook the significance of Maxwell’s “MTV Unplugged” performance. When our reader witnessed him command his falsetto during his rendition of Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work”, it was a revelation. Although “This Woman’s Work” would not be performed on this evening, that same power, that same command was on display at the Hollywood Bowl, proving that Maxwell, even after all these years, remains a force to be reckoned with.
For an individual who began their love affair with the smooth sounds of Maxwell during his freshman year, this evening was more than a concert – it was a culmination of memories, emotions, and pure musical ecstasy. Maxwell proved, once again, that true artistry is timeless, and the soulful echoes of his discography will continue to resonate for years to come.