Maroon 5’s Adam Levine has many of the requisites to be a rock star: abundant charm, good looks, sexy moves, a nice voice, good hair, tight jeans, a big ego, lots of opinions, his own TV show, a line of menswear, his own fragrance (OK, that’s not required). What he doesn’t have is the right kind of surname.
That’s because the performance on Monday by Maroon 5, the hitmaking band from Los Angeles, at the sold-out Xcel Energy Center recalled that of another band — Bon Jovi. Nowadays, it seems like the Jon Bon Jovi Band with a bunch of hired hands. And that’s what it seemed like on Monday — the Adam Levine Band.
Just don’t dub the band Levine. It doesn’t sing, does it?
The frontman, famous from TV's "The Voice," spent maybe half of the 95-minute performance alone on a runway that extended a good 30 yards from the stage. When he introduced the band, he called them “my friends.” He explained that sideman Sam Farrar, who plays keyboards and percussion, is “doing a lot of work for me tonight.”
And the six musicians acted like, well, sidemen, not band members even though some of them have known Levine since high school. They didn’t play with overt enthusiasm or clear camaraderie.
When guitarist James Valentine joined Levine on the runway, there was no palpable interaction. Oh, at one point during “Daylight,” they faced each other for a guitar jam that lasted for maybe four bars of music. Levine showed more rapport with opening act Rozzi Crane when she came out to dance and sing with him on “Moves Like Jagger.”
Still, the musicians of Maroon 5 made the music more compelling live than on their unapologetically commercial pop/rock recordings, by showcasing the band’s rhythmic instincts. “One More Night” was all about hip-hop syncopation. “Harder to Breathe” was a meeting of jagged rhythmic guitars and power chords. “Wake Up Call” was set to something of an Eastern European dance beat.
That Maroon 5 blatantly borrows riffs and licks from Stevie Wonder, Sting, Billy Joel and Hall & Oates doesn’t seem to bother the 14,000 fans that turned out Monday. Nor do the sometimes pedestrian lyrics such as those on the sappy "Love Somebody" or the pleading "Sugar" ("I'm hurting, baby, I'm broken down / I need your loving, loving, I need it now").
What matters was that Levine, 36, was in good form. His tenor voice glided easily into that distinctive falsetto. He worked the artful stage (with its transparent floorboards) with the energy and instincts of someone who advises aspiring singers on a talent show.
He wasn’t particularly chatty, and his performance seemed very controlled and calculated. Levine did loosen up on “This Love,” during which he playfully chided the fans for abandoning him during the singalong part. During the encore, he went on a gentle tirade about our being too reliant on technology and asked fans to turn off their cellphones for two minutes. And at the very beginning of the final song, the current falsetto-fueled hit “Sugar,” he sang “dearly beloved,” a Prince lyric that acknowledged that Levine knew he was in Minneapolis.
A few more instances where Levine let his hair down and went off script would have added another requisite for rock stars: abandon.