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Maroon 5 and Train at the Hollywood Bowl: Concert Review

Maroon 5
Christopher Polk/Getty Images for VH1
Maroon 5's Adam Levine and James Valentine

The Bottom Line

Train outshines its co-headliners by bringing versatility to the storied stage. 

Venue 

Hollywood Bowl, Monday, July 25

But Adam Levine "showed how seasoned he's become" during a duet of Michael Jackson's Man in the Mirror; The Voice winner Javier Colon and Stevie Nicks made special appearances at Monday's Hollywood Bowl show.

“This does not feel like a Monday.”

That’s how Train frontman Patrick Monahan kicked off his band’s co-headlining gig at the Hollywood Bowl on Monday night. And he was right: it felt like the weekend. Maybe it was the unforgiving traffic or the capacity crowd but here was an audience who wanted a show, and it was the job of Train, co-headliners Maroon 5 and opener Gavin DeGraw to deliver one worth the price of admission ($60 to $80 on average).

So how did they do? Train proved their resilience on the stage, simply because they took more risks and brought variety to their set without stepping too far from their own pop-rock roots. It was the perfect blend of sincerity and a light-hearted attitude. The band constantly mixed things up, never becoming predictable or formulaic.

Case in point: the band’s fourth song of the night, “She’s On Fire.” It started out a near exact clone of the album version until a stagehand brought Monahan a classic cowboy hat. “I spent $12 on this hat,” Monahan said, “so I hope you don’t mind if we put it to good use and play some country music.”

"Good use" was an understatement as the band switched gears for an up-tempo country rendition of the song, which eventually brought a dozen fans from the crowd to join in singing and dancing onstage.

Also keeping Train’s set eccentric was a cover of Blondie’s “Heart of Glass” -- led by talented singer/cellist Ana Lenchantin -- that evolved into a U2’s “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.” With Jimmy Stafford’s Spanish-style acoustic guitar-playing as the through-line for both songs, Lenchantin proceeded to grace the crowd with some flamenco dancing, soon joined by a smooth-footed Monahan. Immediately after, Monahan morphed again, taking on hard rock with a cover of Led Zeppelin’s “Ramble On.”

Looking at his own lyrics literally, Monahan often endearingly acted out the songs (“Wears high heels when she exercises,” found the singer striding on tippy-toe; “Be my human angel and we’ll only hit the ground running” was met with wing-like arms and slo-motion running) and was always genuinely in the moment. At the same time, he found opportunities to poke fun at the audience. To the girls onstage during “She’s On Fire,” he said, “I didn’t ask for cheerleading.” After walking through the crowd during “Marry Me,” he quipped, “I was disappointed that no one grabbed my ass. I’ll be asking a few of you to do that later.”

This connection with the crowd was largely missing from Maroon 5’s set, which was flawless musically but not up to par with their tourmates' versatility. Adam Levine may have proved via his coaching gig on The Voice that he can entertain on camera, but at the Hollywood Bowl, he was reduced to repeatedly acknowledging how “special” the night was for Maroon 5 -- sounding more like American Idol's Steven Tyler.

It certainly was an apt sentiment for the Los Angeles-based band’s first show in their hometown’s most celebrated venue. As Levine said, “I dreamed about playing here being born and raised in L.A.” Still, it often felt like they were going through the motions, leaving one to wonder whether endlessly touring a limited catalog for nearly a decade ended up making Maroon 5 monotonous.

But even though they ended nearly every song the same way -- with a big whammy bar and throbbing lights -- Levine’s unremitting gyrating hips, the way he grabbed the microphone stand and his constant strutting across stage showed a sexy swagger all his own. Still, it lost some of its appeal when he failed to do much else.

Bringing out guests proved to be the best way for Maroon 5 to step it up and Levine showed just how seasoned he’s become during a live duet of Michael Jackson’s “Man In The Mirror” with The Voice winner Javier Colon. Kicking off the encore was a guest undeniably worthy of the word “special:” Stevie Nicks, who performed a moving “Leather and Lace” with Levine skillfully backing her vocals and sharing the melody.

Opener Gavin DeGraw also held his own on the eight-decades-old stage as he switched between singing while seated behind the piano and sprinting across the stage. The affable signer charmed the crowd with old hits as well as new, like “Not Over You,” the first single from his forthcoming September release. He wrapped up his set by climbing on top of a grand piano then leaping off for the last note of his Top 10 hit, “I Don’t Wanna Be.”

The tour next hits Albuquerque on Wednesday and continues on through September 24.

Set list:

Train

“Parachute”
“If It’s Love”
“Meet Virginia”
“She’s On Fire”
“Calling All Angels”
“Heart Of Glass” by Blondie/”I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” by U2
“Ramble On” by Led Zeppelin with sample of “A Walk On The Wild Side” by Lou Reed
“Save Me San Francisco”
“Ordinary”
“Marry Me”
Hey Soul Sister”

Encore:

“Free”
“Drops of Jupiter”

Maroon 5

“Moves Like Jagger”
“Harder to Breathe” 
“Sunday Morning”
“If I Never See Your Face Again”
“Misery”
“Makes Me Wonder”
“The Sun”
“Man In the Mirror” by Michael Jackson (with Javier Colon)
“Never Gonna Leave This Bed”
“Wake Up Call”
“Stutter”
“This Love”

Encore:

“Leather and Lace” (with Stevie Nicks)
“Hands All Over”
“She Will Be Loved”