On Tuesday night at the First Niagara Pavilion, the coach got in the game, and it was a big win.
Adam Levine, known as much now as "The Voice" coach as the frontman for a band, played his first show with Maroon 5 here in five years, when the L.A. band was paired with Counting Crows.
Since then, Maroon 5 has added three Top 5 hits to the catalog and brought a lot of new fans into the fray -- "a lot" meaning the 20,000-person ballpark, so that on a Tuesday after work, it took almost three hours to get there.
The Honda Civic Tour was actually a meeting of "American Idol" and "The Voice" with the presence of "Idol's" first winner Kelly Clarkson, who is no stranger to the top of the charts.
She introduced her hour-long set with last year's No. 1 "Stronger (What Doesn't Kill You)," showing off her impressive pipes (I could hear that from the road), and moved on to "Behind These Hazel Eyes" and "Catch My Breath" (heard from the parking lot) and "Breakaway" and "Because of You" (heard from the ticket window).
One More Night
Harder to Breathe
Makes Me Wonder
Wake Up Call
Won't Go Home Without You
Misery (with Daft Punk's "Get Lucky")
Stereo Hearts (Gym Class Heroes cover)
Moves Like Jagger
She Will Be Loved
The revelation inside was that she had a dazzling headliner's production -- with flashy lights, screens and strobes -- to go with her big voice. "People Like Us" came with a cool neon effect. She was funny and self-deprecating, too, joking at one point about her "big booty." Late in the set, they worked Aerosmith's "Sweet Emotion" into "Miss Independent" and signed off with her stormy "Since U Been Gone."
Maroon 5 is not granting review tickets or photo passes on this tour (despite the fact the print media was behind the band when it was trying forever to break that first "Songs About Jane" album). It's clearly not because the band is incompetent, because it sounded like a legit rock band early on on "Lucky Strike" and "Tangled," and guitarist James Valentine didn't show up to play lounge pop.
It's not because the "Voice" coach, in a "Hot Rod" T-shirt, looked bad or was singing to a track, like some of his pop contemporaries. The vocals were live and he had the full blue-eyed soul range you hear on the radio, hitting the high falsetto on songs like "Sunday Morning" and the funk workout "Shiver."
"Sunday Morning" added a slice of Stevie Wonder and "Wake Up Call" was mixed with Jay-Z before Mr. Valentine took over with a screaming solo.
After opening with "One More Night" and "This Love," then hitting some album in the middle, Maroon 5 got back into the hits and got the crowd singing along with "Love Somebody" and "Misery," breaking into Daft Punk's "Get Lucky."
The Gym Class Heroes hit "Stereo Hearts" forced him to do Travie McCoy's part as well, which was a little awkward. He also did the Christina Aguilera part on "Moves Like Jagger," which closed the set after a brief 65 minutes.
That may have been a good thing, because with that strained vocal style, he seemed to be wearing out a little by the end. As fans poured out of the venue, fearing the return traffic, the band returned for the un-clean version of "Payphone," with a video cameo from Wiz Khalifa, who was on the same stage three nights ago.
He read some fan mail, congratulating him on his engagement, before going into an acoustic version of "She Will Be Loved" and sending people into the night with a strong vocal on "Daylight."
The moral, for aspiring hitmakers, is that if a singing competition comes calling asking you to be a judge, pick up the phone.
Scott Mervis: email@example.com; 412-263-2576. First Published August 6, 2013 11:30 PM