Two of America's hottest cultural heroes played to separate sell-out crowds in Twin Cities arenas on Monday -- LeBron at Target Center and Adam at Xcel Energy Center.
Adam? Adam Levine, who has his own TV show (NBC's "The Voice"), fragrance ("Adam Levine"), clothing line (via Kmart), record label (222) and movie ("Can a Song Save Your Life," with Keira Knightley, due this year). He's also the leader of Maroon 5, the most unapologetically commercial rock/pop band in the United States.
While LeBron James and his NBA champion Miami Heat turned to ex-Boston Celtics sharpshooter Ray Allen to bolster their team this year, Maroon 5 looked to Swedish hitmeister Max Martin for an electro-dance makeover (Taylor Swift used him, too). While the Heat have put together a team-record 15-game winning streak, Maroon 5 has a four-hit streak, a pretty rare feat, as well.
The Heat won ugly in Minneapolis but Maroon 5 had a more stylish triumph in St. Paul. The L.A. sextet combined nifty staging, smart lighting, catchy songs and that all-important ingredient -- star quality. In his black jeans and black T-shirt (revealing his tattooed arms), Levine, who turns 34 this month, acted like a rock star. He worked all parts of the stage (shaped like a giant M for Maroon 5), danced a bit (though he's no threat to Usher or Justin Timberlake) and sold his songs with animated hand gestures. He seemed strikingly humble for him (no diatribes or f-bombs), thanking the crowd of 14,000-plus and saying "this is the most inspired and most fun time" of the band's decade in the spotlight. And, most importantly, he unleashed that soaring tenor (and falsetto) like he was the second coming of Steve Perry.
Yes, for better or worse, Maroon 5 has become the modern-day Journey -- complete with overwrought ballads and overamped guitar solos. Of course, that's when the band isn't trying to update Hall & Oates, which seemed to be its mission before meeting up with überproducer Martin.
On Monday, whenever Levine and the boys started to get funky in either a Hall & Oates ("Wipe Your Eyes") or Prince-inspired way ("If I Never See Your Face Again"), things felt forced. However, when Maroon 5 dialed it down, they found an innate soulfulness, especially on an acoustic treatment of "She Will Be Loved" and on the breezy, jazzy "Sunday Morning," two of the group's hits from the mid- '00s.
But when they delved into the Martin-helmed hits, Maroon 5 felt as reinvigorated as this year's Miami Heat. At the X, "Daylight" might as well have been Journey's "Open Arms" or "Lights." And the closing, whistling-fueled, confetti-raining "Moves Like Jagger" approached the celebrative level of Journey's "Don't Stop Believin.'?" Just wonder if these Maroon 5 songs will still resonate 15 or 20 years from now?
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