Written by Asantha Jayaweera
There are some people in life, who you want to do well. Some people who you feel are truly good people, good to the core, and deserve all the plaudits, money, fame and adoration that come to them. I can honestly say, from the bottom of my heart, that Adam Levine is absolutely not one of those people. I read two articles today that described him as ‘a soiled bathing costume’ and ‘the human version of getting a positive test for Chlyamidia’. Type in the words ‘Adam Levine’ and ‘douchb@g’ into Google, and it will deliver you 50,000 hits in 0.26 seconds. Now type in, I don’t know, famous civil rights activist who celebrated her 60th birthday yesterday, ‘Ruby Bridges’ and ‘integration’ and you get 45,000 hits in 0.28 seconds. In other words, there are more articles on the web about Adam Levine being a D-bag, than on the story of the first ever black child to go to an all-white school in America (in 1964) or any of her subsequent work on racial integration. She even runs an eponymous foundation for goodness sake. The conclusion I have chosen to draw from this therefore (let’s not dive down that other rabbit-hole), is that there’s a lot of hate for A-Lev out there. When he told GQ magazine in May this year that he wasn’t sure if he was a doucheb@g or not, the internet nearly exploded.
This is unsurprising, when you consider his man-whoring, his line of beautiful ex-girlfriends (last month he married a Victoria’s Secret Model), his coaching role on The Voice (he dumped manure all over Blake Shelton’s new truck) and was generally a smarmier creepier and more weirdly starey verison of our own Ricky Wilson (like you thought that was possible). Add this to dramatic roles in (the much-to-my-chagrin rather good) American Horror Story, feature film roles, and his own fragrance line (in my eyes the very height of douchebaggery). Oh, and he’s also the frontman of a band you may have heard of over the past 14 years, multi-Grammy award winning Maroon 5. If we were in the Zoolander universe, Adam would be odds on favourite for The Slashie for Singer/Model/Actor/Entrepreneur.
A quick scan over his name also reveals some interesting findings anagram-wise. Did you know that an anagram of Adam Levine is ‘A Named Evil’? Coincidence? Not even. There’s more….from the rather apt and sublime ‘Made Venial’, to the ridiculous ‘Me Dive Anal’ and ‘Invade Me Al’. From the Biblical ‘Amen, A Devil’ and ‘A mean Devil’, to the prophetic ’Mad, Nae Evil’. From the weird ‘An Enema Lid’ to my favourite one ‘Veined Lama’. (Don’t judge me, I was a lonely child and played a lot of solo ‘Boggle)’. Or perhaps most appropriately, ‘Me, Vain Lead’. It’s a good thing then, that there are 5 (miles more likeable if not immediately memorable) other members of Maroon 5 who can write and perform some seriously catchy music too.
“You and I go hard!” Adam’s first words as the band come out, with full rock band power chords behind it. Then an abrupt deliberate stop. Repeated. “You and I go hard”. Stop again. Sexually suggestive pelvic thrust. Oh dear, Oh dear. It’s going to one of those nights is it Adam? D-Bag alert. Before launching into the mega-hit ‘One More Night’. It’s actually a great opening number, despite his microphone being far too quiet.
There is then a seamless segue into ‘This Love’ via some hard rocky guitar riffs. Levine oozes charisma as he slimes his way across the stage, dripping it, and leaving an imaginary obsequious stain of arrogance behind him. He grabs a guitar and plays lead for the last few bars before there is another continuous segue into the next track. And the next. There really isn’t any let-up in the music or links. No silence at all. At any one time, there are always drums rattling, guitars riffing, keyboards tinkling away. It’s a really clever set-up for each song and very well-produced, choreographed and thought-out set.
Adam struts with the mic-stand wedged under his arms and shoulders, propping him up in a Christ-like crucifix posture. In less-experienced and less-confident hands it could look like The Scarecrow from The Wizard of Oz, but the man has such a God complex that I’m sure he’d settle for nothing less than the Almighty’s favourite son. There is nothing of The Redeemer here however, as with camp sexually-charged dance moves (imagine Mick Jagger and Steven Tyler having a raunch-off) he caresses the mic in a way that is about as far from religion as you can imagine. Flanked by two powerhouse guitars and bass, and backed by drums and keys, it’s a cultured layered sound that is thick with musical talent. You can tell they all write, and understand how to play music.
Adam stamps his feet in his trademark pose in his overly tight jeans (that leave nothing to the imagination) and does a half-squat that any Crossfit athlete would be proud of. A pulsing drum-beat starts and heavy distortion guitars overlay it as their first ever single release (from their debut album ‘Songs About Jane’) ‘Harder To Breathe’ kicks in. It’s a far rockier more guitar-heavy version than on the album, and I like it. Even during lead guitarist James Valentine’s solo however (who is channelling the look of Taylor Hawkins, and the guy from Reef), Levine is still literally in the spotlight. There’s the Stevie Wonder-esque, keys and bass-slanted ‘Sunday Morning’, that is funkier than Prince dressed as Niles Rodgers, playing a George Clinton & The Parliament cover.
There are some bizarre interludes in the show. One where Adam nonchalantly drinks tea (centre-stage of course darling), whilst a roadie who looks like a London cabbie so angry that he might chin the Incredible Hulk, fixes a mic-stand that has been sexually-assaulted by the afore-mentioned predator Levine. How many more mic stands does this need to happen to before people stand up and say something?
Next is the wonderfully 80s drums and synthed keyboards of ‘Always You’, a mash-up of U2 and Roxette in style and substance, and then onto current hit ‘Maps’ with again some funky slap-bass. What has always been most impressive about Levine’s vocals has been the odd keys he sings in, the difficult intervals he jumps his voice between and the falsetto he manages to hit note-perfect. His prowess is to blame for the have-a-go-heroes who populate TV ‘singing’ competitions and subject viewers to a thousand ear-wincing auditions of ‘Payphone’.
Next is the anthemic ‘Love Somebody’ that is set to wonderfully-projected ‘shooting stars’ hitting the roof of the magnificent Roundhouse. This track is destined to be played across numerous teen TV and film Love Denouements. Cue tears and emoting. The ska-inspired ‘Stereo Heart’ follows with Adam doing his best Gwen Stefani and Arctic Monkeys impression, but the piano is beautiful and the singalong/sing-it-back with the fans works well.
The Roundhouse is more packed than any of the other 3 gigs I’ve reviewed at the iTunes festival so far, but this crowd appears to have gone to the ‘We Need To Talk About Kevin’ school of love-witholding, and are oddly tough on the band. This could also be because the mics are wildly different volumes, the instruments are hella loud and there is absolutely no room to move on the floor.
Adam jumps around like a madman to coordinated power chords from the band, prior to launching into ‘Moves Like Jagger’. However stops it 5 seconds in, saying that he is too out of breath, and has a time-out for 30s. He does make everyone laugh though. “Take two!” he yells, and the energetic catchy tune gets the proper treatment. And finally, the crowd is up and bouncing. He’s won them over. ‘It took you guys long enough’ the band seems to be thinking, but even the balcony is standing and dancing. It’s a win.
“He’s even weirder with a guitar than without” my girlfriend turns and says to me as everyone averts their eyes, as serial instrument-botherer Levine has grabbed a guitar again and is bumping and grinding it like R Kelly’s life depended on it.
The encore is a perfectly pitched ‘Payphone’ in both vocals and crowd-feeling. There is more rude banter with the crowd (“Can I lick you?” a desperate fan shouts). Its nose-diving again Levine. The rest of the band step in to rescue this musically, and the last two songs are a great stripped-back acoustic-guitar verison of ‘She Will Be Loved’ and the anthemic (much-better-suited-to-arenas) ‘Daylight’.
All in all, Maroon 5, despite Adam Levine’s best efforts, have managed to win over some of the haters, and keep the stalwarts happy. But without their frontman, they’d just be 5 dudes who write and perform really catchy music….and were a little boring. Perhaps the lesson here is, we should all introduce a little more douchebaggery into our lives.