Maroon 5's much-anticipated performance in Seoul was a letdown in terms of musical satisfaction. Lead singer Adam Levine's voice remained unstable, with his trademark high-pitch tone often failing. It was the Korean fans who salvaged the strained performance with their over-the-top support for the band on Monday.
Signs of trouble were detected early on when the group abruptly postponed their concert in Daegu on Sunday, a mere two hours ahead of the scheduled performance. Vocalist Levine apologised on Instagram, where he uploaded a photo of himself in a neck brace asking for "sympathy." But the fans who had come in from different cities or nearby countries were shocked and disappointed despite the ticket refund. The Daegu concert was rescheduled to Thursday, but some expressed concerns they would not be able to make it to the southeastern city on a working day.
All attention was on the concert held in Seoul's Olympic Gymnastics Arena where Maroon 5 would be met by some 13,000 fans. The group had nothing to worry about, it turned out. Regardless of what its members did or what the critics might say about vocalist Levine's subpar performance, the Korean fans showed unconditional support for Maroon 5.
The 2 1/2 hour show started at 8 p.m. sharp, just as planned. An opening act by Swedish rock band Dirty Loops took out the first half-hour and another 30 minutes was spent on a set change. This arrangement, albeit common in Europe and North America, is a rarity in Korea, where a set of seamless acts is considered crucial. The idle waiting time agitated some of the anxious people, but loyal fans remained patient.
A sudden lights-out signaling the start of Maroon 5 live was met with thunderous cheers. The five pranced into the arena with sounds of wolfish howls and growls, connecting straight to their hit song "Animals."
The group sang a total of 17 songs including "Animals," "One More Night," "Stereo Hearts," "Harder to Breathe," "Lucky Strike" and "Payphone."
Vocalist Levine, reportedly suffering from neck muscle pain, was unable to maintain the soaring notes he is so famed for. He faltered on high pitches, and had to lower the keys in improvisation. He relied on his fans who knew the lyrics by heart, many of whom eagerly sang for him in a booming chorus.
Maroon 5 has long had a strong fan base in Korea -- so much so that the tickets for this concert tour were sold out within five minutes of advance ticket sales, which opened online months prior to the show. The group initially planned to hold one concert in each of Daegu and Seoul, but later added an extra concert in Seoul to accommodate more fans.
"Everywhere all over the world we go, every time we come here, it is the best crowd, best scene, (you are an) enthusiastic and awesome group of people," Levine said. "And it's just so cool to be able to say over and over again every time we come here. The whole band all agree unanimously that this is the best crowd. This crowd right here. Every single one of you,"
He swerved right back to his true performer self for the last two songs in the set list -- "Payhpone" and "Daylight" -- as if he had been saving his voice until the end.
During the last song "Daylight," in a gesture of solidarity, the fans inside the concert hall held up placards reading "Don't Go." Once the lights dimmed, in a slow ripple from the front to the back, they sang his hit track "Lost Stars" from the 2013 movie "Begin Again," which attracted over 3.4 million moviegoers in Korea when it opened here in 2014 -- significantly more even than in its much-larger US home market.
Levine came back to the stage and performed the song together with guitarist James Valentine.
"We're only singing this song because we heard you singing. We might forget some of the words, so if you guys can help us. And if we mess up, we mess up. Wish us luck," Levine said, before smoothly pulling off the song.
He sang "She Will Be Loved," "Moves Like Jagger" and "Sugar" as encore songs before finally bidding adieu to the enchanted fans.
Critics might take issue with Maroon 5's Seoul performance, but the fans seemed to have had a thrilling time.
Jang Ha-young, who came to the concert in Seoul, said she was very satisfied with the performance. "I had some worries due to what happened in Daegu, but I absolutely loved tonight's concert," she said. "I had goosebumps all over. They were amazing."
Maroon 5 is set to hold concerts at Seoul's Olympic Gym on Sept. 9 and at Daegu's Daegu Stadium Football Field on Sept. 10.