How long until Maroon 5 headlines halftime of the Super Bowl?
It might happen sooner than we all think. The way the L.A. pop-rockers strutted out guns a-blazing at Tampa’s Amalie Arena on Wednesday – with a breathless, frenetic 25-minute cavalcade of hits that barely gave the extremely sold-out crowd a second to take it all in – it practically felt like an audition for Roger Goodell. Was he secretly in the building?
That electric opening run (for the record: Animals, One More Night, Stereo Hearts, Harder to Breathe, Lucky Strike and Wake Up Call) was nearly impossible to follow, but it didn’t really matter. By the time singer Adam Levine finally paused the music long enough to say hi – "We’re just getting warmed up, right?" – the crowd of 16,947 had enough of a charge to last all night.
For all of Levine’s lucrative side gigs – TV personality, actor, fashion plate, torso – keeping parties spinning with Maroon 5 remains the job he does best. He was in motion all night, skipping like a spirit squad captain around the futuristically lit stage, then out on an arena-spanning and not-at-all-phallic arrow jutting across the Amalie floor. Levine is 20 times more famous than any other member of Maroon 5, and so for most of the night, the catwalk and spotlight were all his – even if he didn't reach the arrow's oversized tip until the encore (such a tease, that Adam!).
The rest of Maroon 5 mostly stuck to the script and let Levine do his thing, but that’s not to say they weren’t worth watching. Drummer Matt Flynn put the petal to the metal for a wound-up, revved-up Harder to Breathe, and worthy guitarist James Valentine pulled back for a largely acoustic, two-man She Will Be Loved (during which Levine pleaded at length for fans to put away their cell phones and just enjoy the music).
No deviation was more delightful than the intro to soaring pop single Payphone, for which Levine, Valentine, guitarist Jesse Carmichael, bassist Mickey Madden and keyboardist P.J. Morton formed a little barbershop quintet called "the Marooners," saluting the song’s titular outdated technology with appropriately old-timey harmonization.
Songs from slightly more brooding new album V (the whooping Animals and Maps, the darkly synth-poppy My Heart Is Open and Sugar) fit seamlessly alongside easy-breezy favorites like the loping Sunday Morning and crisp This Love, which the entire arena kicked off a cappella.
The more new hits Maroon 5 accrues, the more old ones get pushed out of their setlist (Misery missed the cut Wednesday). But that’s not a bad problem to have. Anytime you can fill a show front to back with nothing but gigantic hits, no showbiz gig seems that far out of reach.
Which brings us back to the Super Bowl. Hey, three nights ago Maroon 5 played the Oscars. The way they seem to be firing on all cylinders these days, who’s to say halftime’s not next?
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*