Adam Levine has a theory about bras. He had a chance to explain it four songs into Maroon 5’s Madison Square Garden set, when a roomy scarlet specimen arrived at his feet. Some fans, Levine explained, buy bras especially to throw on stage; these bras are “weak”. A close inspection revealed no price tags – a positive sign – and then a young woman rose up from the crowd, braless, to be pronounced “real”.
Kid Rock probably doesn’t think much about such things. But Levine’s ever-so-slightly detached relationship to his own hotness has earned him status as the thinking woman’s lust object. Tall and well-built, with a rakish profile and just enough flaws to look interesting, he’s muscular but not ostentatiously so, only a little fey, a goofy enough dancer to seem accessible, and at least sometimes affectionate in his lyrical kiss-offs.
If Levine ditched his anonymous band and hired a super-producer, he could probably vie with Justin Timberlake for hip ubiquity. His rubbery, clipped-guitar sound is less interesting, but his instinct for big pop hooks is stronger and his soul falsetto has more backbone, as he demonstrated during a couple of impressive vocal exercises. But he is clearly more comfortable among the boys he grew up with – he can clown around with them on stage, and they give him an excuse to pull out a big guitar and rock out gratuitously, as he did towards the end of far too many songs.
While Timberlake works with street rappers such as T.I., Levine’s cool hip-hop friend is Kanye West, who appeared for a quick five-minute run through the duo’s collaboration “Nothing Lasts Forever”. Even at a brief spurt, West’s aggression highlighted the one thing this efficient, satisfying show lacked: hunger. Cool reserve and affability only go so far on the big stage; if he really wants to be a star, Levine might have to drop the nice guy pose and embrace his beefcake destiny.