Maroon 5 gives a little more

Maria Jorica B. Pamintuan - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The venue does not make a concert.

It doesn’t matter whether artists stage their gigs at a bar, a park, a garage, on top of a truck, indoors or outdoors — dedicated fans will still watch. But still, it’s unwise to choose a venue where huge concrete pillars block the view of the show.

For some of the crowd at the Maroon 5 concert at the SMX Convention Center on Monday, distance from the stage wasn’t the biggest hurdle to seeing the band in the flesh. Imagine sitting or standing behind a very tall person during a show, craning your neck just to see the stage, then multiply the frustration a hundredfold — that’s what it was like for people who were forced to watch the concert from behind concrete pillars in the middle of the convention center.

Granted, there were screens set up on the pillars, so that fans farther from the stage could see what Adam Levine and the rest of Maroon 5 were doing, but it’s just not the same. A tiny view of the real thing would have been a bit more satisfying than a full view of the video feed.

It was almost a terrible experience, but the show itself more than made up for it. Some concerts rely on lights, sounds, flash animation and videos, fireworks, hydraulics, and a whole range of other gimmicks to make the performance memorable. The Maroon 5 concert was impressive because of the music itself and the band’s showmanship.

Unlike many other acts that have come before it, Maroon 5’s show involved a lot of audience interaction and participation. Frontman Adam Levine often talked to the crowd, once even trying to speak Tagalog. He made the effort to constantly keep everyone in the hall engaged in the show. And of course, the band couldn’t neglect the crowd-favorite activity: “your-turn-to-sing,” when the artists direct the microphone to the audience and ask for help in singing their songs.

Maroon 5 took the experience a notch higher when Levine split the audience in half and had both sides sing different lines from the song, She Will Be Loved, while he acted as a conductor harmonizing the two sides.

Maybe, the acoustics of the convention center or maybe, Levine’s statement that the Philippines is a very musical place was a good motivation to perform well, but the crowd chorus was louder than at any concert ever before. When the song was done, it was hard to tell who was happier with the audience’s participation — the fans or the band.

“That’s gorgeous. Beautiful,” Levine said afterwards, then once again complimented the Pinoy crowd for being “very melodic” in singing along compared to the performance of some of the band’s fans in America.

Many other times during the night, he asked the audience to sing along — a request karaoke-loving Pinoys were only too happy to grant. Even when they weren’t being asked to sing, members of the audience would belt out Maroon 5’s songs, sometimes, even overpowering Levine’s voice.

With a roster of 17 songs made up mostly of their chart-topping hits, including Harder to Breathe, Give a Little More, and Won’t Go Home Without You, Maroon 5 really excited the crowd, but somehow kept the show almost intimate, like it was a crowd of a hundred, and not a thousand.

The white walls of the convention center — it really didn’t seem like an actual concert venue — lent an informal aura to the concert (and the band’s casual clothes added to the feeling). People were also bringing pizza and cup drinks into the crowd during the show, like they were watching a relaxed performance at a park where they could lay out blankets and have a picnic.

The atmosphere was really different from the usual big-act concert, and so was the crowd. The well-dressed audience (a stark contrast to the laid-back outfits the guys were wearing) was made up of kids as young as six and kids at heart as old as 60. They showed their love for the band in different ways: kids jumped up and down during the fast songs, teens squealed and screamed I-love-yous all throughout the show, couples were practically slow-dancing to the band’s ballads, and the older people sat down and enjoyed what concerts are really for — good, live music. But when the biggest hits like This Love and Makes Me Wonder were played, everyone was on their feet, cheering and singing madly.

Though everyone seemed to enjoy all the singing, the crowd also showed a lot of appreciation for Maroon 5’s instrumental jams, which they inserted into many of their songs, including Stutter, Shiver, Hands All Over and Wake Up Call. The whole band, including Levine, who played rhythm guitar, rocked out their songs with guitar riffs and hard-hitting beats.

From their opening number, Misery, to their closing, Sunday Morning, Maroon 5 serenaded the audience with slightly tweaked versions of their songs (and a cover of Alicia Key’s If I Ain’t Got You) and kept everyone hyped up. There was no down moment, even during the slower and lesser known songs.

Perhaps it’s because Maroon 5’s songs are so sing-able. Or maybe Adam Levine is just a very talented showman who knows how to build up excitement and butter up the crowd. For all its simplicity, the band’s concert is one of the most memorable, most enjoyable of the year (yes, even with the lackluster and underutilized venue!).

It wasn’t a concert people watched. It was a concert people experienced.

After round two of Maroon 5 in the Philippines, even the sweetest goodbye has left Pinoy fans in misery, hoping the band will come back to give a little more.

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