TAMPA — Adam Levine owes Kelly Clarkson a drink.
Both singers shot to fame in 2002, and both have been Billboard mainstays ever since. But without Clarkson's post-American Idol success, NBC might never have greenlit The Voice, and Levine might not be the poster boy of pop he is today. Oh, sure, he'd be doing just swell with his own band, Maroon 5, but he wouldn't be hosting Saturday Night Live and acting in films and TV shows, that's for sure.
So it's fitting that Levine and Clarkson teamed up for this year's Honda Civic Tour, which on Friday sold out Tampa's MidFlorida Credit Union Amphitheatre. They're two halves of the same pop coin, the judge and the judged, and between them, they delivered enough chart-busting singles on Friday to keep 19,500 fans dancing all night.
Levine and Maroon 5 would have found fame in any era, adapting like chameleons to the style of the time. Dressed all in white, they whipped from genre to genre without batting an eye: The tipsy reggae bounce of One More Night, the blue-eyed funk of This Love, the disco-punk of Lucky Strike, the big beats and staccato shredding of Harder to Breathe. One minute they're Chicago, the next they're the Time.
During one 15-minute stretch, the band grooved seamlessly from the easygoing swing of Sunday Morning into an electrified cover of Prince's I Wanna Be Your Lover into the funky falsetto of Makes Me Wonder, backed by a three-piece horn section that gave track with big, bold brass ones. They even tacked on a cover of Daft Punk's ubiquitous Get Lucky, a song Levine must be kicking himself he didn't write.
By the time Maroon 5 ended their biggest hit, Moves Like Jagger, Levine was shirtless, his soaked, sinewy torso speckled with confetti, and the fans were eating it alive. "Convince me! Convince me!" he said, teasing the song to a chorus of screams. They may not play to the hipsters in Portland, but man, don't you wish you could book 'em for your wedding?
Bright blond and flattered by her little black dress, Clarkson came out at sunset with a pair of killer girl-done-wrong anthems, Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You) and Behind These Hazel Eyes, then bouncing and twirling at center stage to the Pat Benetar-like Catch My Breath.
The strain of girl power that Clarkson traffics in is at its most infectious when her voice hits the those high notes on Breakaway and the punkish Since U Been Gone. But she also showed a softer side on Don't You Wanna Stay, her hit duet with country star Jason Aldean. Backed by an acoustic quartet — including a guitar, fiddle and accordion — the delicate cheek-to-cheeker offered hope that her forthcoming country album might offer more banjos than bombast.
There's no doubt Levine would have twirled his Voice chair on that one, begging Clarkson to join Team Adam. And after a dozen years near the top of the charts, they'd probably both still walk away winners.