King and Queen of Hearts Tour photos taken by Vickey Ford (SneakShot) for Okayplayer.
I was privileged to catch the second show of the 24-date “King and Queen of Hearts Tour” featuring two of soul music’s most fundamental singers, Maxwell and Mary J. Blige. According to Rolling Stone Magazine, the title was Blige’s idea, saying, “I came up with the title from understanding that is who we are. He’s the king at what he does; I’m the king at what I do. This is no ego, and we’re not being arrogant — this is being sure, because we’ve been doing this for so long that we can say [that] we’re the King and Queen of Hearts.”
Blige kicked off the show with a run-through of some of her biggest hits. The crowd was on their feet, dancing with her to her most popular and inspiring jams. About halfway through her set, she stopped to talk to the crowd, the ladies especially, explaining that she is currently enduring “some heavy shit” — which if you ain’t know has been a very public divorce from her husband and manager. The outrage she feels is communicating in her new song, “Thick of It,” from her forthcoming album, Strength of a Woman, which once performed, intensifies the mood. She leaves from that song right into “Not Gon’ Cry,” and then into a ferocious performance of “No More Drama”. She ends her set with stomping, jumping, howling and finally collapsing on stage to the roar of impassioned and understanding fans.
As MJB finishes her set to an ovation, the room feels as if she’s given everything she could at that point. Her emotionally-charged performance kept the crowd on their feet, setting them up for the boogie when she hit her final song, which was the funky and everlasting, “Family Affair”.
Unexpectedly, it became quickly apparent that some people came only to see Mary J. Blige. Half of my row, which were all women, left during the interval and didn’t return to see Maxwell’s performance. A sad occasion as he recently returned to music after a seven-year absence with the much-praised album, blackSUMMERS’night. Sticking to mostly familiar, older songs with a good portion from his debut smash, Urban Hang Suite — the highlight of Maxwell’s performance was a dramatic, extended cover of the Kate Bush song, “This Woman’s Work,” which he performed on his MTV Unplugged album. His voice and falsetto were in top shape throughout the evening. His set was also a consistent romantic groove with the dimly lit stage accentuating his sharp dressing.
After letting loose for a little bit, Maxwell’s dancing (and split!!) enabled him to get a rise out of the remaining audience. Tucking in his shirt to become prim and proper once again, Maxwell gave occasional salutes to Prince during the show — an obvious inspiration to him as an artist. Turning the end of the sultry, slow-burner “Fortunate” into the Prince favorite, “Adore” served as a lovely surprise and he tackled that transition with ease.
While his time on stage was not as rousing and exciting as Blige’s opening set, it was still great to hear Maxwell perform these songs live and it was a wonderful way to spend an evening. For anyone who hasn’t seen them in living color, be sure to catch one of these upcoming shows!
Upcoming Tour Dates:
November 18 – Detroit, MI @ The Palace of Auburn Hills
November 19 – Indianapolis, IN @ Bankers Life Fieldhouse
November 20 – Memphis, TN @ FedEx Forum
November 22 – Charlotte, NC @ Time Warner Cable Arena
November 23 – Richmond, VA @ Richmond Coliseum
November 25 – Atlanta, GA @ Philips Arena
November 26 – Greensboro, NC @ Greensboro Coliseum
November 29 – Miami, FL @ AmericanAirlines Arena
December 1 – New Orleans, LA @ Smoothie King Center
December 2 – Dallas, TX @ American Airlines Center
December 3 – Houston, TX @ Toyota Center
December 6 – Los Angeles, CA @ The Forum
December 7 – Oakland, CA @ Oracle Arena
December 9 – Las Vegas, NV @ T-Mobile Arena
December 11 – Bossier City, LA @ CenturyLink Center
December 12 – Kansas City, MO @ Sprint Center
December 14 – Chicago, IL @ United Center