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Maroon 5 gets a lift from Usher in Strip premiere

Updated March 30, 2023 - 7:37 pm

The difference between a touring show and a Strip residency production is reflected on what Adam Levine calls, “The Little Stumpy Stair Thing.”

This is a small, raised stage, maybe the size of a welcome mat, appropriately as Maroon 5 has just opened its “M5LV” series at Dolby Live. Levine told Saturday night’s packed house that he’d walked the theater, as the band started scouting production ideas. “I was looking for a great place to come out and visit.”

After moving to a few locations in the lower level, Levine found the spot, “This amazing little stump,” he calls it. The position is in the VIP area. “This is the place I will stand when I sing for you!” he said, as the crowd roared.

Great call, but not original. Levine said he’d been quickly informed, “This whole area was built for Usher.” Levine is a fan, loves Usher, and even performed a little groove in honor of his co-Dolby Live headliner. Levine then produced a Sharpie from his pocket, writing a note on the platform, “Dear Usher, you’re so, so, so, so, so, sexy. Also, thanks for letting me use your Little Stumpy Stair Thing.”

Levine says he hopes the message is never erased. Maybe it’ll be displayed in a museum someday. Until then, he’s singing “Memories” from that spot.

The moment showed Levine’s stage experience, confidence, and sense of humor. Same for Maroon 5 as a unit, opening with a video played to “Viva Las Vegas” as it opens its first Las Vegas residency. “M5LV” is to run 16 dates, playing again this Wednesday, Friday and Saturday, continuing for four dates in April, two in July and six in August.

The pop-rock band founded in 1994 is familiar to performing in Vegas — I caught them a dozen years ago at a Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition party at Vanity at then-Hard Rock Hotel. Levine and the crew have played many New Year’s Eve shows, at Mandalay Bay Events Center and the Chelsea at the Cosmopolitan. Last October, they performed at “The Event,” Shaquille O’Neal’s charity show at MGM Grand Garden.

Over time, the band has proven comfortable with performing in a busy Vegas entertainment climate, and last weekend was certainly that (with Taylor Swift leading the headliner onslaught). But in its “M5LV” premiere, Maroon 5 showed off a flashy and uniquely designed Vegas show (even without the stump).

Baz Halpin produced the performance, adding a third Strip show to “Awakening” at the Wynn and Katy Perry’s “Play” at Resorts World Theater. Halpin’s Silent House Productions partner Parker Genoway directs. The musicians are backed LED-infused “video box,” with video panels shows artsy images of Levine and the band. The screen also bursts with such warning lyrics as “Moves. Like. Jagger” for the song of the same name.

The sound in the room is markedly improved, with the Dolby Atmos system in full place (as it was for the Imagine Dragons’ performance for the audio company in January). The band spins through “This Love,” “Sugar,” “Girls Like You,” “Moves Like Jagger,” in healthy catalog of recognizable cuts.

Levine, always at the front, is a one-man fashion show. He walked out in a wicked Chrome Heart black-leather jacket; by the encore he was shirtless with his “CALIFORNIA” abs tattoo reminding the crowd whence the band came.

Showing off his sky-high vocals, Levine performed a pair of well-placed covers. Prince’s “I Wanna Be Your Lover” was unleashed midway. And a bold move to revive the Bee Gees’ “Stayin’ Alive,” just before encore. It’s a groove song, certainly a disco revival, but also a message from the band. Maroon 5 is cranking it on the Strip, and with a little help from a friend, still standing tall.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His “PodKats!” podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

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