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Concert Reviews: Maroon 5, Matchbox Twenty

Maroon 5 and Matchbox Twenty
Mellon Area, Pittsburgh, PA
May 9, 2003
By: Linda Spielman

Being hand-picked as one of the two opening acts--- Sugar Ray being the other--- for the current Matchbox Twenty Tour, Maroon 5 is now getting the opportunity to reach huge crowds with their colorful name and even more colorful sounds.

If you come early enough and with an open musical mind to see Maroon 5 play their thirty-five minute set, you may be a bit confused photo of Maroon 5 guitarist James Valentine copyright Linda Spielmanas to where this band fits in terms of musical categories. But, after watching their performance,it's easy to leave having been pleasantly surprised at their sound. The Maroon 5 of today is a far different band from what they originally started out to be. Based in Los Angeles, they first emerged on the scene as Kara's Flowers in 1995. Their previous sound was that of a hybrid of rock, punk and pop influences. With mediocre success on Reprise Records circa 1999, the band decided to experiment with a new direction in their existence and sound. Lead vocalist and guitarist Adam Levine moved to New York City between bands and record deals. There, he was exposed to a much more urban music scene than what LA had offered. With the new found musical muse and influence, Maroon 5's current infusion of R&B, jazz, funk, and alternative rock evolved into their current sound.

The songs on their debut CD, Songs About Jane, such as the first single, This Love, as well as Sunday Morning, Secret, and Not Coming Home reflect a sound evocative of the band's deep interest in soul music. "During the time between our record deals," Adam Levine photo of Maroon 5 singer Adam Levine copyright Linda Spielmanrecalls, "I spent a lot of time in New York where I was exposed to an urban and hip-hop culture in a way that had never happened to me in LA. It turned me on to an entirely new genre of music which has had a profound impact on my songwriting."

It is very hard to pinpoint what Levine, James Valentine (guitar), Jesse Carmichaels (keyboards), Mickey Madden (bass) and Ryan Dusick (drums) want you to come away with in terms of their music. Each time I thought I finally had nailed down where their sound fit in, they would surprise me with a new song and a new vibe. Their set was inclusive of much of their album. Their single, Harder To Breathe, was reminiscent of a mix of The Red Hot Chili Peppers kind of funk, a touch of jazz and Levine's energetic and raw vocals all blending beautifully together with the elements of an alternative band. Their performance left my musical mind in a bit of a tailspin, but a good tailspin.

Maroon 5 has been touring on festival circuits like the 2002 photo of Maroon 5 bassist Mickey Madden copyright Linda SpielmanJeep Outside Tour with Sheryl Crow and playing many club dates. As their mainstream popularity is growing, the band already has an almost underground cult following. Although they may have not worked their way into Pittsburgh radio airplay just yet, there were quite a few people in the audience who knew every word to every song Maroon 5 played. At first listen, I would have thought this is an NYC based band whose sound and energy can only be found in one place: Greenwich Village. Never would I have believed this band was originally from Los Angeles.

Although the energy and music of Maroon 5 was a refreshing change of pace from many past opening acts I have seen, one can only hope that uniqueness of what they bring to the table won't get lost in the shuffle of a large arena tour like the Matchbox Twenty tour. As the underground buzz and fan base of Maroon 5 continues to grow, it is only a matter of time before they too will be headlining arena shows.

Photos by Linda Spielman