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Concert Reviews:
Maroon 5 pours the "Sugar" on at Little Caesars

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Monday, October 1, 2018

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DETROIT -- A discerning fan probably wanted what Maroon 5 was having during its Red Pill Blues Tour stop Sunday night, Sept. 30, at Little Caesars Arena.

Rather than another pop spectacle -- which a group with 18 Top 20 singles and a frontman who's a bona fide multi-media star could easily have scripted -- the septet put on a full-throttle exhibition who’s nearly 100 minutes of hybrid pop surged forward with nimble, energetic precision. It was lean and refreshingly devoid of schtick -- unless you count a mirror ball during Maroon 5's cover of Michael Jackson's "Rock With You" or Adam Levine's couple of guitar solos.

Otherwise the group played it straight, surging through 18 songs drawn from its six solo albums, with Levine, long-standing co-star of NBC's "The Voice," working a long, V-shaped ramp that stretched deep into the arena floor -- sporting his vintage Run-DMC T-shirt the entire night, not even changing it for the encores -- and an assortment of images rolling across a floor-to-ceiling video screen behind the stage. Maroon 5 wasted no time getting that going, either, following a video snippet from "Back to the Future" (Marty McFly getting blasted by the super power speaker in Doc Brown's workshop) with a breathless 40-minute blast that included "What Lovers Do," "This Love," "Misery," "Sunday Morning" and a particularly muscular "Animals" with barely a second's break in the action.

There were few pauses throughout the rest of the night, either, save for some brief salutations by Levine. An energetic "Maps" sounded like Eurythmics meeting Sting, while "Harder To Breathe" did hit hard, with a biting solo by James Valentine. "Don't Wanna Know" was one of several songs that took on a Caribbean flavor in its live arrangement, and an extended "Makes Me Wonder" blended funk with a crunchy rock chorus and slid into "Rock With You" before an ebullient "Moves Like Jagger" closed the main set.

Levine did take time before an acoustic encore version of "She Will Be Loved" to pay tribute to the late Aretha Franklin, announcing that, "We love you. We miss you. We thank you for everything. Greatest ever...Everybody else looks stupid, that's how great she was. She's better than my ass..." "Sugar," meanwhile, brought the show to a, well, sweet and spirited finish.

Levine also gave a shout out to opener Julia Michaels, whose half-hour set primarily showcased her 2017 solo album "Nervous System." But Michaels -- in a sparkly pink dress and matching Converse Chuck Taylor sneakers -- also took time to spotlight her songwriting career as well, playing acoustic snippets of hits she's co-written for Selena Gomez ("Bad Liar," "Good For You"), Hailee Steinfeld ("Love Myself"), Gwen Stefan ("Used To Love You") and others.

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