Eclectic Maroon 5 bring “This Love” to Pavilion

By John Frame

With their R&B/jazz/hip-hop/reggae/blues/pop-infused eclecticism, Maroon 5 has emerged as one of the hottest bands on the music scene. Still running high off their 2002 debut album, Songs About Jane, M5 has gained more and more momentum as a group, with fans anxiously anticipating a follow-up album.

The band performed Tuesday at the University of Illinois-Chicago’s Pavilion (a venue that makes Mandel Hall’s grandness look ancient) to a sold-out crowd that had an unusual mix of patrons, from the screaming 12-year-old girls to 40-year-old couples and everything in between.

Opening for M5 were the Thrills. Simply put, they weren’t very good. The lead singer’s voice seemed to turn off the crowd, which was a quarter full at this point, from the very beginning. I suspect that they had an effect on just how much I ended up enjoying Maroon 5; anything that wasn’t the Thrills was okay with me. The tour opted to dump the Thrills on Chicago, despite the fact that the Donnas and Phantom Planet have played with M5 over the course of the Honda Civic Tour.

Entering behind a gray transparent curtain and bright white and gray lights, the band made an entrance fit for a band that has been around for at least 20 years, not just three. Going through almost all of the songs on their debut album, the band mixed in some special surprises but opted to rock out more than speak to the crowd or do covers of other bands’ songs (a huge plus).

The concert was marked by some new renditions of the bands’ signature tunes, like added five-minute guitar solos and some ad-libbed vocals by lead singer Adam Levine and James Valentine on songs like “Tangled” and “Sweetest Goodbye” (one of my favorites of the night). Levine’s voice was in top shape, making some of the songs sound better than they do on the album. I don’t think there was a bad song in the line-up.

The band kept the crowd going the entire hour and a half, only once leaving the stage for a few minutes to return with a giant “M” on a huge backdrop. The “M” was covered with lights that made interesting patterns throughout the concert and added to the already electric atmosphere.

On the band’s biggest hit, “This Love,” Levine got the crowd into the song, requesting that we sing the first verse a cappella. It was one of the highlights of the night. Levine spoke to the audience about his appreciation for crowds that sing along to the songs. But with a three-year-old album that’s received massive radio play, it would have surprised me more if the crowd didn’t know the words.

The band also performed two new, unreleased songs that only made the desire for a follow-up album more apparent in the crowd. If the new album is anything like those two sample songs, Maroon 5 will be one band that breaks the sophomore album curse.

The concert ended with a melodic rendition of “She Will Be Loved,” a move that satisfied all of the ladies in the house, but didn’t quite feel like an appropriate ending. But on the whole, I was pleased with my seats, my friend who joined me, and the performance by a band that just keeps getting better.

Maroon 5 took home the 2005 Grammy Award for Best New Artist, which came as a surprise, seeing as how this veteran band’s nomination seemed overdue. They also beat out the popular (and some would say most deserving) candidate, Kanye West. And while I think Maroon 5 deserved their Grammy, standing in the Pavilion and listening to the screaming crowd, the live instruments, and Levine’s amazing, unique voice, the band’s influence— and just how great it felt to be there—became clearer to me. If you don’t know Maroon 5, I urge you to discover them. You may find that they’re worth your time.