Charismatic frontman hits high notes

Organisers for the Formula 1 Grand Prix must have abided by the sacred rule of "if it ain't broke, don't fix it" when they picked Maroon 5 to headline Saturday night's concert slot at the Padang - again.

The American pop-rock band performed at the same venue in 2012 to a 50,000-strong crowd and rave reviews. A year earlier, they pulled in 8,000 at the Singapore Indoor Stadium.

Maroon 5 did better than their last show, pulling in a crowd that numbered between 55,000 and 60,000, while Spandau Ballet had a 5,000-strong audience.

Three years on from their Formula 1 debut, Maroon 5, including its sexy, tattoo-heavy leader Adam Levine, proved that they are still very much in demand. There was only standing room as fans covered every part of the field.

At 11.15pm, sounds of the jungle, wolf howls and thumping tribal drums heralded the group's arrival. Levine stood in the light beam, bouncing side to side in rhythm with the pulsating beat - like a boxer ready to pounce. And they did, kicking off with Animals, from their 2014 album V, which they are promoting. For the next 90 minutes, they blazed through a well-curated 15-song setlist.

Die-hard fans would appreciate the band returning to their funk-soul roots by performing songs such as Sunday Morning and Harder To Breathe from the sleeper hit album, Songs About Jane (2002), which put them on the road to stardom.

The rest of the audience, who probably know the band from mainstream radio stations overplaying their songs, was kept happy with radio-friendly offerings such as Payphone (recorded with rapper Wiz Khalifa) and Stereo Hearts, which Levine performed with rap-rock group Gym Class Heroes in 2011.

Nothing much has changed. It is still very much The Adam Levine & Friends Show, as it was clear that he was very much the star behind the band.

The 36-year-old worked the stage, strutting up and down the long runway like rocker Mick Jagger and hit those delicious high notes he is known for.

And the crowd were happy to accede to anything he wanted them to do. Could they cheer louder for keyboardist P.J. Morton? Sure. Clap along to their songs? Of course. Sing along to an acoustic version of This Love? Anything for you, Levine. He rewarded the adoring crowd by taking off this shirt and strapping on a pink, neon guitar - making it alluringly sexy, yet manly in a way only Levine can.

Earlier in the night, a former heart-throb, Tony Hadley of Spandau Ballet, brought nostalgia back for a middle-aged crowd of mostly tourists, in an hour-long set at the Village Stage.

Like Levine, the 55-year-old was a strong frontman, leading his band in a tight, musically charged set. Perspiring buckets from the the get-go - he should have left the suit at home - Hadley, who has since packed on the pounds, proved he still had the strong baritone vocals to belt out their poppy sounds.

It was a slow start to warm up the audience, as the band started with a newer song, Soul Boy. But when they dug into the catalogue of familiar songs such as Chant No 1, True and Gold, it sparked a dad-dancing frenzy in the audience.

The band themselves were enjoying their first time out in Singapore, as they let loose on stage.

It was a good night for Levine and Hadley, as they proved that a charismatic frontman makes all the difference. Both did not have sparkly outfits and costume changes, back-up dancers or fancy digital backgrounds to do the performance work for them - just the basic premise of a singer with great songs, who knows when and how to lead a singalong and a solid band.

But even as fans left pleased, one hopes that the organisers heed another familiar saying when they pick next year's line-up: "Absence makes the heart grow fonder".

This article was first published on September 21, 2015.
Get a copy of The Straits Times or go to for more stories.