Review: MAX and John Splithoff bring a wide musical spectrum to the Great Hall

Pop singer MAX performs in the Great Hall on Jan. 24. MAX released his first album, “Hell’s Kitchen Angel” in 2016 and also mentioned during the performance that “a second album is coming soon”. He is most well known for his song ‘Lights Down Low’, which he says he wrote and sang to his wife as a way to propose.


The Memorial Union’s Great Hall played host to a wide spectrum of musical genres on Wednesday night as MAX took the stage, along with opener John Splithoff. Although the artists approached their music from different directions, both performers commanded the stage with their vocal abilities and artistry.

First up for the evening was John Splithoff, a New York native who sang with a new-soul style. Splithoff engaged the audience early in the performance, noting his Midwestern roots and his connection with the university – his sister was a past student at Iowa State. Splithoff played a 45-minute opening set, and while the audience may not have been aware of Splithoff’s music before this night, their cheers indicated that he had won them over by the end of his first song.

Splithoff performed two unreleased songs: “Make It Happen,” a song which he described as “the happiest song I’ve ever written” and “Torture.” Despite performing with only a guitar, he added rhythm and percussive elements which accentuated the soulful, bluesy tones of his voice. He finished his set with “Stepping Stones,” released this past New Year’s Eve, and his hit song “Sing to You.” By the end of the song, the audience sang the bass line while Splithoff ad-libbed, making for a memorable acapella closer.

The night’s music took a completely different direction when MAX (the stage name of singer Max Schneider) took the stage. While Splithoff’s performance took a more acoustic approach, Schneider and his accompanying bandmate used a more electronic, produced sound. That electric sound paired perfectly with Schneider’s electrifying stage presence. If he wasn’t showcasing his vocal range, he was dancing around the entire stage, performing microphone flips and impressive physical jumps.

This physicality lasted through the entire performance, but MAX’s vocals remained consistently powerful as he performed his own songs like “Holla,” “Basement Party,” and “Gibberish,” while covering songs like Twenty One Pilots’ “Heathens” and OutKast’s “Ms. Jackson.”

The atmosphere felt like a large music festival, and the audience danced with raised hands through much of the night. MAX also performed unreleased music from his upcoming album. “Mediocre” was an unpredictable intro track, while “Sax on the Beach” used a catchy saxophone riff reminiscent of other summer pop hits.  

MAX closed out the night by performing his most popular single “Lights Down Low,” a song he wrote to propose to his now wife, and a song he said he hoped everyone could relate to regardless of their identity or who they loved. He also performed “Mug Shot,” his first single he released under the name MAX, and invited Splithoff back on stage. When it was all over, Schneider had one request.

“Would you have us back, Iowa?” Schneider yelled to an ecstatic crowd.

If the roar from the audience was any indication, then yes, Iowa State would love to have these performers back very soon.