By Thor Christensen
As if there were any doubts that Maroon 5 is really just The Adam Levine Show with four extra W-2 forms, the group made it official on the opening night of its world tour Monday by giving the singer his very own stage.
True, some of the other Maroon 5 guys briefly joined him on the arrow-shaped stage near the back of the sold-out American Airlines Center, and while they were there, Levine pointed out they’ve performed with him since high school.
But Levine spent much of the 95-minute show strutting alone across the second stage and its long ramp, building an even higher wall between him and the rest of the group. And why not? He is, after all, a judge on The Voice, a man with his own fragrance brand and menswear line. Few fans probably cared – or even noticed – that keyboardist Jesse Carmichael had rejoined the group after a two-year absence.
As far as bandleaders, you can do far worse than the charismatic Levine. To quote the band’s 2011 hit, he “Moves Like Jagger,” leaping and spinning like a Zumba instructor on two quarts of espresso. Yet unlike the peacock-y Sir Mick, Levine always came off as the rock-star-next-door.
Levine brought along no special effects or costume changes, just a proletariat uniform of blue jeans and a jersey with the number 83 (an homage, perhaps, to a year that left a major imprint on many of Maroon 5’s synth-driven songs). And for every slick dance move, Levine offered lots of dork-dancing straight out of Tom Cruise’s tighty-whitey scene in Risky Business. At one point, he even skipped merrily down the ramp like a kindergartener, a rare sight among male rock stars who tend to be concerned with their street cred.
Levine was in decent vocal form, nailing all his trademark falsetto notes with ease. He wasn’t nearly as impressive in the lower registers, but then again, Maroon 5’s well-crafted but predictable pop songs don’t require a lot of vocal range. Their tunes were stuffed with hypnotic melodies and fail-safe hooks, from the soul-lite of “Sunday Morning” to the hard rock of “Harder to Breathe” and the reggae-funk of “Stereo Hearts,” Levine’s 2011 hit with Gym Class Heroes.
The group felt confident enough to play half of its new album, V, including the bombastic show opener “Animals” and the disco-flavored “Maps.” But Levine kept apologizing for being rusty – “we’re still getting our touring legs back,” he said – and band’s handlers refused to provide the media with tickets or photo credentials to cover the tour’s opening night.
They needn’t have worried. With their athletic, affable star at the helm of not one but two stages, Maroon 5 was doubly foolproof in concert.
Thor Christensen is a Dallas writer and critic. Email him at email@example.com.