Honda Civic Tour, Radio City Music Hall, New York, 4/8/05
Who would have guessed it would be all bright lights, big cities for Maroon 5 if you had seen them seemingly marooned 5 years ago. But dang, how the landscape has changed. Here we are at the third and final of a string of sold-out dates at Radio City Music Hall shortly after their big night at the Grammys. Yes, that’s right. Allow me to underscore that: Radio City Music Hall. (Yes, that Radio City Music Hall.) Three sold-out nights. Grammy win.
Where were they five years ago? Marooned on a desert island of modern rock mediocrity without a prayer of rescue. In my daydream, it went something like this: “Skipper, Maryann, let’s put some Ginger in the sound and turn ourselves into the new reigning Professors of funkalicious dance rock for a post-Timberlake neo-soul era.”
With the band’s brand of funkified alt-pop pumping out hooky grooves by the minute, it’s no wonder John Mayer’s audiences were won over, one by one, over the course of two consecutive tours. Who cares if the audience had never heard of Maroon 5 before? The minute “This Love” comes spilling out of the speaker cabs, no crowd with a pair of eardrums between them could help but get off their @$$es and boogie. I dare you to try and sit that one out.
Any musician worth their Marshall stacks can tell you that the greatest test an unknown band can face is an enormous crowd of virgin ears. Think about it. Three years of opening for other bands’ megatours later, and Maroon 5 find themselves nailing platinum records to their walls, selling out dates across the country, and winning the Grammy. If that’s not the best endorsement for a band’s ability to rock a live show, I don’t know what is. They shot from obscurity, not only due to their hook-writing ability, but on the strength of their live performances. It’s hard to think of a better argument for why you should buy a concert ticket. ‘Nuff said on that account.
So yeah, it was easy enough to convince me that this was one of the tickets well worth spending my hard-earned money on this season. (Doesn’t hurt that it wasn’t an expensive ticket to begin with, either.) But still, I was dying of curiosity. Maroon 5 released Songs About Jane in 2002. How would they sound after 3 years straight touring behind the same material? Would they be bored? Would they be jaded?Would AdamLevine strip to his skivvies just to give himself something to remember the night by? (I thought it best to remain optimistic and look on the bright side, of course.)
Well, here I am. And I can testify, brothers and sisters, that Maroon 5 have the mark of true musicians. Hallelujah, Amen. Rather than resorting to limp renditions or big explosion gimmickry, they went to the heart of each tune and mixed it up. These boys can play their instruments – sung, strung, struck or tickled. In my humble opinion, the mark of a true musician is the ability to get swept up in the movement of a tune and improvise. And I don’t mean an out-of-left-field vocal outburst or some misguided attempt at a screaming guitar solo. I mean the ability to get back to the essence of a song and jam. That’s the kind of improv that grabs hold of a crowd and sweeps them up in the moment with the band.
Jump on your next opportunity to see Maroon 5 live. These tunes will make you shake your rump-ah, with an undercurrent of heat that made Kelly Preston agree to make out with a skinny musician in a rock video. Yeah, it’s the kind of energy that has the guys here in the audience tonight making eyes at all the fine females in the room. Maroon 5 has made everyone in the joint tonight feel sexy – it’s palpable and the joint is jumping.
-Harder to Breathe:
I'm blown away by the sound quality of both the venue and the band. They're working a very bassy, rich guitar sound.
"Hot asphalt?" He ain't kiddin'! They took it down a notch and sexed it up.
They broke out this new tune perhaps to remind the audience that they have no plans to become one hit wonders facing that dreaded sophomore slump. For you M5 purists out there, no need to worry that they'll be perpetrating any 'what were they thinking' blunders, abandoning the sound you love. If this new tune is any indication, the neo-soul is safe.
One of my personal faves on the album and one of the crowd's faves of the night. They mixed it up at the end with some highly original segues into unexpected cover tunes: "Sign your name across my heart, I want you to be my lady..." into "Those days are over, Roxanne..." into "We don't need no education..." -- all over a break-it-down-now mellow jam. Crowd hysteria ensued. Meanwhile, Adam is really the only showman in the band with anounce of showboat in him. Which is, let's face it, useful in a frontman.
One of the biggest highlights of the night. Adam busted out with the first line in a capella, at which point the audience took over (without any prompting from him, I might add) and sang the entire first verse and chorus without a single note being played. I love spontaneous crowd moments like these. One of the things that can make live music such a transporting experience.
"This is a song from one of our favorite bands..." And what is it? An Oasis cover! Just their luck, Oasis are on tour through September.
-She Will Be Loved:
Even with the volume turned up to 11, the crowd could still be heard singing along with every word. Buy Maroon 5 tix and maybe you too will get lucky and hear Adam explain the mom angle in the song's video. "It doesn't really make sense -- it just looked good. And I really wanted to make out with Kelly Preston." Who can argue with that?