Onto the stage of KeyBank Center bounded singer Adam Levine, looking like an abundantly inked cross between David Schwimmer’s Ross character from the sitcom “Friends” and some particularly obnoxious and self-confident personal trainer hell bent on getting you to turn your one-month free trial at his gym into a paid year’s worth of ill-advised servitude.
He looked familiar, then.
Like the popular jock from high school. The guy who got the girl, the trophy, and the good grades.
Popularity has followed Levine and his Maroon 5 for some 15 years now, as album after album hits the multiplatinum mark during an era when most (nominal) rock bands struggle to hit the Gold standard, and fans routinely sell out their arena shows.
The Western New York contingent of that fan-base ignored the alarmingly strident winds battering downtown and filled the KeyBank Center on Wednesday night for a stop on the world tour that has proceeded intermittently since 2015.
[PHOTOS: Smiling fans before the Maroon 5 show in Buffalo]
These fans wanted the hits. These fans got what they wanted.
The band took the stage and slammed straight into its mega-hit “Moves Like Jagger,” and the place erupted in jubilation, despite the fact that Levine displayed no Jagger-like moves – he strolled the stage amiably, looking more like a hipster game show host than the swivel-hipped Rolling Stones singer.
Then the floodgates opened, and pop paean after pop paean emerged from the hands and throats of the well-oiled machine of a band. “This Love,” “Harder to Breathe,” “Love Somebody,” “Lucky Strike” – the tunes are largely interchangeable slices of danceable pop music, with Levine moving with agility between a thin and reedy tenor and an on-point falsetto. The fans loved this stuff.
Maroon 5 can be criticized for its middle-of-the-road approach, certainly. The band seems to seek out musical styles like a parasite seeks a host. Mildly edgy, Police-influenced alt-rock; arena-sized anthems; electro-pop - Maroon 5 has dabbled in all of these idioms, and pledged loyalty to none.
Wednesday’s show offered a bit of everything the band has done over the years. A median of uber-professionalism has been achieved. This band does not make mistakes. It doesn’t ever break from the script long enough to blow you away, either.
At times, something would jump out of this earworm-heavy pop mélange to make the listener take notice. It might be Levine hitting a high note at the right time. More often, however, it would be guitarist James Valentine playing something particularly tasty.
Later in the evening, Levine announced that the Buffalo date would be the last of the tour.
The crowd appeared to appreciate this fact. But more appreciated were Levine’s occasional walks down the ramp running through the gut of the arena. He didn’t do much out there. He just stood there and wiggled his butt.
But his voice was killer all night, it must be said. Even when the band was turning David Bowie’s “Let’s Dance” into a scene from what could’ve been a high school prom in Clarence, the man nailed his parts.
Guitarist Valentine took several solos that were worthy of applause throughout the evening. Not one earned any. However, when Levine whipped off his leather jacket and rolled up the sleeves of his white T-shirt, the place erupted.
So there’s that. It is what it is.
If you entered KeyBank Center a fan of Maroon 5, you likely left loving the band (and Levine) even more.
If not – well, Wednesday’s show was not about making new converts.
It was what it was.
Wednesday night in KeyBank Center