Live review: Maroon 5 at the Greek Theatre
“I want all of Los Angeles to hear this!” Adam Levine exclaimed Friday night at the Greek Theatre, where his band, Maroon 5, played the first of two hometown shows over the weekend. Levine was urging the audience to sing along — and loudly — to “This Love,” one of Maroon 5's earliest hits, but his request served also as an indicator of the L.A. group's demographic ambition: At a moment when many musicians view stylistic specialization as a way to reach listeners overloaded with options, here's an act deeply devoted to the big-tent approach.
Levine and his bandmates used their 90-minute set Friday to showcase the various facets of Maroon 5's sound. In “Wake Up Call” and “Stutter” — the latter from the group's third studio album, “Hands All Over,” released last month — they were hard-rock road warriors, bashing out muscular riffs over stomping beats. “If I Never See Your Face Again” and “Give a Little More” were lighter and funkier, with guitarist James Valentine channeling Nile Rodgers of Chic; a glittering disco ball descended during “Give a Little More,” emphasizing the music's hot-stuff heritage.
For “Won't Go Home Without You,” the band smoothed out its delivery until it had a soft-pop sheen, but then it went folky and homespun for “Out of Goodbyes,” which on “Hands All Over” features backup vocals from the country group Lady Antebellum. Later, Maroon 5 turned “She Will Be Loved,” its oily 2004 smash, into a lovely acoustic reverie with delicate three-part harmonies.
In the studio, Maroon 5 is one of pop's most exacting outfits; Levine and his band mates traveled to Switzerland to record “Hands All Over” with Robert John “Mutt” Lange, the notoriously painstaking producer of albums by Def Leppard and Lange's ex-wife Shania Twain. At the Greek, they sacrificed some of that precision in the name of onstage energy, a canny move given the lack of personality that sometimes makes “Hands All Over” feel like the result of some complicated set of musical algorithms.
“Makes Me Wonder,” Maroon 5's craftiest tune, was lumpier than it should have been, but Levine put across the song's sharply worded lyric with an exuberant acrimony. And though the frontman didn't quite muster Alicia Keys' soulful intensity in a cover of her “If I Ain't Got You,” you had to admire the gumption required to tackle a song that everybody likes and hardly anyone can sing.
-- Mikael Wood
Top photo: Maroon 5's Adam Levine, left, and guitarist James Valentine at the Greek Theatre. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times.
Bottom photo: Levine, left, and drummer Matt Flynn. Credit: Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times.