Maroon 5 at Reliant Stadium, 3/13/2014
Adam Levine is a different breed of pop star than he was when Maroon 5 earwormed its way onto our iPods 12 years ago. Thanks to the power of reality television, he's more visible, more vocal and -- need I say -- just sexier. But his band's music as of late? Increasingly boring.
That same creative apathy threaded Maroon 5's third RodeoHouston show Thursday night, built on an energetic string of hits that sounded, to the band's detriment, almost identical to the versions we've heard over the past decade.
Maybe that's taking him for granted, though. After all, it's no small feat that Levine's very specific, stylized sound can translate live, note for note, in this era of Autotune. But there was a ceiling to his performances, an air of predictability that would have sunk the best of his Voice contestants.
Openers "One More Night" and "This Love" were sturdy crowd-pleasers and nothing more. Dubstep-teetering "Harder to Breathe," the band's first single, felt dynamic but ultimately too familiar. It wasn't until "Sunday Morning" that I heard a voice (no pun intended), an in-the-moment personality as Levine sunk his teeth into the jazzy, infectious melody.
He carried that groove into a cover of Prince's "I Wanna Be Your Lover" and a punchy version of "Makes Me Wonder" (boringly bleeping out the pivotal curse word; more on that in a sec), but lost his footing later during a lukewarm take on No. 1 hit "Moves Like Jagger." In a sense, the concert felt like a televised special: carefully rehearsed with only measured, baby risks such as kicking off "Wake Up Call" with the terrific opening bars of Jay-Z's "Dirt Off Your Shoulder." A fleeting moment of innovation.
So that's my story and I'm sticking to it -- but the audience will tell a different one. Levine and his band performed to about 75,000 people, a crowd that screamed for him in between beats and fawned over every guitar solo. When he confessed that the rotating stage made him nauseous, I half-expected a pack of girls to bring him Dramamine and a cold compress.
Review continues on the next page.