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Maroon 5′s Adam Levine has the right moves at Xcel

September 19, 2018

“Moves Like Jagger” may be Maroon 5’s signature song, but the group’s legacy in the pop world may be Operates Like Levine, a playbook for modern-day pop stardom.

Maroon 5 frontman Adam Levine is ingenious. He’s enjoying a huge solo career without ever making his own album. He’s done it by becoming a big TV star of sorts, a coach on NBC’s “The Voice.”

His face and personality are displayed throughout the country on a weekly basis. And that has boosted the success of the 17-year-old Maroon 5, which has bounced back with a string of Top-10 hits — including “Moves Like Jagger,” “Sugar” and “Girls Like You” — since Levine landed on TV in 2011.

There was no question at Maroon 5’s sold out concert Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center that this was the Adam Levine Show. He may have introduced the other members of Maroon 5 as his “best friends and my brothers,” but he pretty much acted like they were strangers except for guitarist James Valentine. Levine picked up a guitar and jammed with Valentine a couple of times and even invited Valentine to join him on the V-shaped runway extending from the stage.

Yes, the runway was the exclusive province of Levine. And he commanded not with moves like a rock star but with enthusiasm, animation and, most importantly, his voice. More specifically his falsetto. He uses it to great effect just like Prince did. And with ease. In a way that elicits shrill screams from female fans.

Like at the end of the night’s closing number, “Sugar,” a hit Levine introduced by saying “big love to Prince.”

Like during the acoustic encore of “She Will Be Loved,” before which Levine asked the nearly 14,000 fans to refrain from using their cellphone cameras for 90 seconds.

Like during a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Rock with You,” complete with a giant spinning disco ball.

The Jackson classic was the perfect prelude to “Moves Like Jagger,” with its irresistible disco-like bass line. In fact, when Levine broke into his falsetto it evoked moments of the Bee Gees in their disco heyday.

“Moves Like Jagger” seems like an anomaly in Maroon 5’s repertoire. Most of the music by Los Angeles band — now expanded to a septet — is the kind of easy, breezy pop-rock that makes you sway your hips but never work up a sweat.

That notion was underscored by songs that the unapologetically commercial Maroon 5 offered from its sixth album, 2017’s “Red Pill Blues.” Opting for the second straight album to co-write with such hitmaking pros as Julia Michaels and Teddy Geiger instead of his bandmates like he used to, Levine has come up with a chasing-the-trends, generic “Pill.” Forgettable new tunes like “Wait” and “Don’t Wanna Know” were all about chill rhythms.

The exception was the current No. 2 song “Girls Like You,” which has a reggae-like vocal hook with a feel-good video featuring various dancing women including Ellen DeGeneres and Mary J. Blige. The video clip played behind the band Tuesday with cheers whenever Minneapolis Rep. Ilhan Omar, the first Somali-American woman elected to office in the U.S., appeared on the screen.

If one thing was missing from Levine’s playbook, it was his sharp tongue heard on “The Voice.” His only kind of teasing comment was about Valentine’s jumpsuit. “It makes getting dressed for the concert easy,” said the singer, 39, in a soccer jersey and jeans. “But I can’t pull it off because I’d look like an [expletive].”

Twitter: @JonBream • 612-673-1719

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