The spirit of pop music is infectious. And you could see the contagion spreading across the mammoth Fiddler’s Green Amphitheatre as Maroon 5 took on the beastly shed on Tuesday night, winning over the predominantly young female crowd with a set that rarely strayed from the hits.
The big pop show was a bonafide party, and a crowd-pleasing one at that. There were the sing-along ballads, the big dance jams, the call-and-response bits, the random covers, the expertly woven samples and singer Adam Levine’s signature charm.
But what was truly awesome (in the true Merriam-Webster sense of the word) was the band’s sheer number of hits. Seriously. At some point in the last 11 years, Maroon 5 became one of those bands that can play a full 90-minute show relying on nothing but hits. And that makes for a wild and strange — and fun — experience.
Just imagine a concert that opens with this kind of unrelenting familiarity: “One More Night,” “This Love,” “Lucky Strike,” “Tangled,” “Harder to Breathe,” “Sunday Morning,” Prince’s “I Wanna Be Your Lover” and “Makes Me Wonder.” (Even if some of those song titles sound unfamiliar, you’d likely recognize the hooks. And yes, we’ll get to the Prince cover later.) Few artists can maintain that level of consistency in familiarity, and perhaps Maroon 5’s greatest accomplishment Tuesday night was flexing that muscle, proving its ubiquitousness.
Levine told a few stories, about how when he was a kid he dreamed of telling a crowd, “This song is from our second record,” both implying that there was a second (and a third and likely a fourth) record; He praised Red Rocks Amphitheatre, the last Colorado venue the band played, as “the most badass place there’s ever been;” and he praised opener Kelly Clarkson saying, “She makes it so hard to come out here and sing every night, she’s so good.”
But the band was focused on back-to-back-to-back music. And while most of the show and its many polished segues were clearly crafted months ago in some studio — including two beat-savvy, beat-matched samples, Skrillex’s “Scary Monsters and Nice Sprites” and Jay Z’s “Dirt Off Your Shoulder” — it made for a seamless, if prepackaged, night out.
But Maroon 5 isn’t an important band. They do, however, remain a prominent, solid pop act that deserves its place atop the charts and among pop culture’s biggest touchstones.
For one, they’re still all over radio — more than 10 years after their debut “Songs About Jane” broke wide open. Secondly, they can still sell tens of thousands of tickets in primary and secondary markets. Thirdly, millions of TV viewers invite singer Levine into their living rooms multiple times a week; Levine’s starring role as one of the judges on NBC’s ratings juggernaut “The Voice” makes him a modern-day Simon Cowell (in a world where even Cowell can’t even live up to that designation).
And Tuesday was one of those odd and very modern marvels where Levine was on a stage in Greenwood Village but also on a soundstage in Los Angeles. (The second, recorded episode of “The Voice” aired during the Fiddler’s Green show.) But that wasn’t as odd as hearing Levine try his hand, and falsetto, at Prince’s “I Wanna Be Your Lover.”
Sure, his band was touring with a tight, three-piece horn section. But that doesn’t mean he had to attempt one of Prince’s most charismatic and funky songs. While that was a bit of a critical misstep, the band later covered Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky,” and its disco-friendly beats and imitable vocals worked better as a pop cover.
Seth A. McConnell is a staff photographer for the YourHub section of the Denver Post and is a regular contributor to Reverb.