­­­jill-scott_web.jpgStill riding the success of his 2009 BLACKsummers’night CD, R & B heartthrob Maxwell performed before a near-capacity crowd at the AmericanAirlines arena on Monday, June 14.

Maxwell always delivers a great live performance, but this summer’s show paled slightly in comparison to last year’s, which was undoubtedly fueled by an almost feverish anticipation from fans after his seven-year absence.
Plans to record a Blacksummers’ night trilogy in three years have been set aside because of the huge and — apparently — unexpected success of BLACKsummers’ night, which has produced the hits “Pretty Wings,” “Bad Habits” and “Fist Full of Tears,” and sold over 1 million copies.  (The trilogy’s predetermined titles play on the combined phrase BLACKSUMMERS’NIGHT, with the emphasis on “Black” for the first CD, “Summer” for the second, and “Night” for the third.)

So, instead of spending this summer in a studio laying down tracks for blackSUMMERS’night, Maxwell hit the road again, this time with neo-soul colleague Jill Scott.

The man knows how to pick an opening act. The incredible Scott, in all of her shapely, full-figured glory, gave the audience what they came for — a sexy and sassy show full of her trademark warmth, candor and wit.

Wearing a belted black mini with a wide skirt over black tights, a head full of natural curls and gigantic hoop earrings, Scott looked absolutely stunning — and her sound did not disappoint.

The Philly native embodies an approachable soul sister persona laced with a free-spirited confidence that is infectious. Backed by an eight-piece band and three male background singers, the flirtatious Scott describes her sound as “sometimes a little raunchy, sensitive, thoughtful.”

Her fans were out in full force, singing along to most of her songs and cheering her sexy banter.

The new mother exudes a freedom that becomes more pronounced the longer she’s around. Scott’s not afraid to toy with her music. She’s known to “operatize” a hit, to speed it up or slow it down according to how creative she’s feeling. Whatever she does to her songs works because of the authenticity and raw emotion that pours through.

Case in point: She oozed “Cross My Mind” — a sexy ode to an ex who was good in bed but nothing else, beginning at a subdued level that ascended to a soulful crescendo with a wicked guitar solo before retreating into a playful plea. She got the audience to its feet with a slamming rendition of “Hate on Me,” and closed the 90-minute show fittingly, with her smash hit “Golden.”

“Thank you so much, it has been ten years,” the multi-talented Scott expressed to the audience for supporting her records, books, bras, movies and TV shows.

Then she turned the stage over to Maxwell.

Clad in a 1960s era slim gray suit, the 37-year-old heartthrob owned the stage with a combination of hits and lesser-known, but still beautiful songs from several of his albums. This show differed from last year’s with its song selection, but Max’s enthusiasm and gratitude for being able to do what he does were in full display.

“Who gets to go away for seven years and come back and have this happen?” the Grammy Award winner asked. “You surprised everybody when you went out and bought this album.”

One addition to this summer’s show was his rendition of Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Worth,” easily one of the most beautiful songs ever recorded. His performance ­Monday night was flawless.

On occasion, Maxwell seemed a little unnerved by the audience’s coolness, but he really should not worry. His fans have welcomed him back, and feeling reasonably assured that he’s not going away anytime soon, have settled into a comfortable groove as they await more of his beautiful music.

RMHarris15@Bellsouth.net­