Maxwell Live at Ravinia

Daley opening for Maxwell at Ravinia

On a day that was milder than usual for July, Ravinia Festival goers packed the beautifully sculpted lawn behind the sold-out pavilion in anticipation of the sensual singer with the incomparable presence and vocal range. But before Maxwell took the stage, we were warmed up by UK soul sensation Daley. Daley elicited attention, screams, and applause singing lyrics to Alone Together, one of his first hits that features the Grammy nominated songstress Marsha Ambrosius.

A definite silence
You’re almost exactly what I need
A definite maybe
Is sure to entice my curiosity
I can’t help but think that this doesn’t add up
I’m trying to separate the facts from all the fiction
We’re living in a world of contradictions
And if baby you’re the truth then I’m lying next to you

Daley finished with a few new tracks from his current album Days and Nights. We were warmed up. The temperature felt less mild and the sold-out crowd was releasing screams, laughter, and joy as the band made their way to the stage – letting us know Maxwell was ready for us. We were ready. The lights were low. The energy was bursting with a simultaneous calm and elation. Just a few notes in and the crowd recognized a little Sumthin Sumthin. Then, from the shadows of the smoke-filled stage immerged Maxwell. He went right into his greatest hits while teasing us all with his incredible flexibility and dance moves. When he hit the splits, got up and grabbed the mic in one smooth motion that could only be pulled off by Prince, James Brown and himself, Chicago welcomed Maxwell.

Moving from Urban Hang Suite all the way through to BLACKsummers’ Night, Maxwell did not leave a single fan disappointed. In fact, he heated up the pavilion quite nicely with a digital duet of Fire We Make, which included the singer crooning on his knees to a video screen of Alicia Keys singing back to him. Feeling the sensual energy of the room, Maxwell moved from his perfectly pitched falsetto voice to teasing the audience with his almost baritone speaking voice saying, “nobody is as hot as you Chicago…. and that Garrett’s popcorn.” The audience loved it. He was truly poetry in motion.

Maxwell_0548From Get to know You to Bad Habits, Woman’s Worth, Fortunate and more, Maxwell lit up the Ravinia Festival stage with over 90 minutes of singing, dancing, and playful banter; all backed by an incredible band and perfect background singers. He said a sweet goodnight over what was already the beginning of audience chants for more. He left the stage, but quickly came back and obliged the hungry fans who weren’t quite ready to end this musical journey. As a screen with delicate white feathers illuminated the night, Maxwell closed with Pretty Wings.

If can’t have you, let love set you free
To fly your pretty wings around
Pretty wings, your pretty wings
Your pretty wings, your pretty wings around

“I love you Chicago.”
And we love him too.


By: Camille LaRay Smith   
Photography by: Letisha Morris
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