“I’m so unworthy of your presence,” says Maxwell to an auditorium filled with mainly screaming women. As many inside Toronto’s Massey Hall scream out, “I love you Maxwell,” and the like, it’s evident they disagree. For them, he is worthy of their presence. It’s been a few years since he performed in Toronto, and as he tells it, the last time he was here he did a stadium show; this time he has a desire to get intimate.

And get intimate is what he does. Whether he is kissing white satin panties he has tucked safely away in his pants’ pocket or slow grinding on the stage as a video plays of Alicia Keys singing her part of his and her duet, “Fire We Make”, Maxwell takes his loyal fans on a 90-minute ride of sultry, live music fantasy.

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As he thanks the audience over and over again throughout the show, flashing a boyish grin often that melts the hearts of audience members, it is clear that he has sincere gratitude for his fans. After all, they have stuck by his side since the mid 1990s. Fans stand, swaying back and forth, completely taken by Maxwell’s one of a kind neo-soul rasp, belting out the words to hits like “Fortunate”, “Sumthin Sumthin” and “Pretty Wings”.

Perhaps most moving is when he delivers a one-minute speech thanking women everywhere for all that they do to keep the world spinning, before purple lights and complete silence take over the concert hall. About 30 seconds later, the now 41-year-old Maxwell, who has not lost an ounce of his soulful swagger, launches into a powerful live performance of “This Woman’s Work” that even leaves men in the audience with their mouth open.

One of the most endearing qualities of Maxwell as a live singer is his humble nature.

One of the most endearing qualities of Maxwell as a live singer is his humble nature. It is the trait that has him jumping on speaker boxes to interact directly with fans sitting high up on the balcony levels, reaching out to kiss the hands of his many admirers or accepting roses from fans, saying, “I should be giving you flowers.” He also takes time to recognize the amazing talents of his live band, and his opening act, Nick Hakim, who he refers to as the future of music more than once throughout the night. It only makes the man behind the music that much more appealing. Even after two encore performances, the audience still wants more.

He may have taken a hiatus from music before his 2009 comeback album BLACKsummer’snight, and again after its release, but it’s clear Maxwell hasn’t skipped a beat. He’s still got it. And he’s most definitely worthy.

Words By. Priya Ramanujam + Photos By. Candace Nyaomi

Priya Ramanujam is the editor of Urbanology Magazine. She co-founded the publication in 2004 with Adrian McKenzie, while a journalism student at Humber College.

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