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Beat Street
By Todd S. Inoue

Suzanne Vega
Guest Stint: Before the Lilith Fair on July 8, Suzanne Vega plans to drop in on Borders Books in Palo Alto.

T.J. Maxwell:
Tom Jones and Maxwell get in the mix

OVER THE WEEKEND, I caught up-and-coming soul stirrer Maxwell ("Sumthin' Sumthin') at the Paramount Theater and wailing Welshman Tom Jones ("It's Not Unusual") at Villa Montalvo. Who is the king of swing? Help yourself to this round-by-round scoring analysis. You can read complete reports of both shows--Tom Jones vs. Maxwell.

Accessories: Tom Jones wore the white, then red, tuxedo shirt ruffles, gold rings and a sparkly Rolex. Maxwell sported a solid bronze-colored tie, square spectacles and color-accented Bruno Maglis. He was a walking, talking, singing Versace ad, an Ace Face to the highest degree. Maxwell on top.

Animal magnetism: When Maxwell first ambled down the stairs to the strains of "Welcome," it was as if Jesus had stepped down from the mount. Maxwell's image, however, is courteous and smooth--no action unless you give him clues. Tom Jones oozes hot monkey love. "She's a Lady" had legs uncrossing, and his purr at the end of "It's Not Unusual" sent temperatures roiling. Add a medley of hip swivels, pelvic grinds and finishing poses and you've got heat. Jones by a knockout.

Cover songs: Maxwell redid Kate Bush's "Crush," a snatch of Ready for the World's "Love You Down" and a funked-up Nine Inch Nails "Closer." Jones has made a living out of redoing other people's songs, among them Prince's "Kiss," Lenny Kravitz's "Are You Gonna Go My Way," Tower of Power's "Down to the Nightclub (Bump City)" and Al Green's "Take Me to the River." Maxwell's choice of Kate Bush and NIN gets points for originality, but Jones' raucous version of Joe Tex's "I Gotcha" was the wild card that swung the vote. Jones again.

Crowd interaction: Maxwell stuck to a tight script up until the encore. Tom, too--but he found time to accept some mid-set flowers and a hug without coming unglued. During one particularly hilarious moment, a woman seated in the front row offered to wipe his brow with a hanky. He took the kerchief, wiped his brow, face and chest, then handed it back to her. Awesome! Jones.

Pipes: Jones can still unleash a seismic wail on tracks like "Delilah." The first three songs after the intermission highlighted his impressive range: "Thunderball," "I'm Never Going to Fall in Love Again" and "Walking in Memphis." Maxwell's debonair epiglottals fluttered and flitted like a cross between Prince and Johnny Mathis. Impressive, but let's hold off the solid comparisons to Prince. A draw.

Showmanship: Tough call here. Jones works a room from top to bottom. Maxwell's occasional outward exuberance cracked his shy-guy shell. He unraveled during the encores, "Ascension" and a funked-up version of "Closer." He also rewarded chants of "Go, Maxwell, Go, Maxwell" with a display of old-school dances. Dead even.

Undergarments thrown on stage: Maxwell, 0; Jones, 5. Who else? Jones, a perennial winner in this category.

What kind of man is he? Jones wants to love you and your pussycat nose, ears and lips and accompanied the statement with PG-13 gestures. Maxwell confessed he is the type of guy who would scrub your back, paint each of your toenails and go to the grocery store and buy you Tampons. I haven't heard a roar that loud in years. Maxwell, for that extra step.

Fair Game

On Tuesday (July 8) at 3pm before the Lilith Fair at Shoreline Amphitheater, Suzanne Vega will sing three songs and sign copies of her new CD at Borders Books in Palo Alto. At noon the same day, Len Andreone will also perform.

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From the July 3-9, 1997 issue of Metro.

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