Maroon 5, Madison Square Garden, New York

Listen to this article

00:00
00:00

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.

Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2017. All rights reserved. You may share using our article tools. Please don't copy articles from FT.com and redistribute by email or post to the web.