December 27, 2017 - 5:49 pm
Updated December 28, 2017 - 6:13 am
It’s 10 a.m. on a Friday morning and James Valentine’s alarm is still going off.
The Maroon 5 guitarist has just gotten out of bed for an interview, awakened early after staying up late.
He’ll need to get used to it — the latter part, at least.
That’s because for the fourth time in the past five years, Maroon 5 is coming to Vegas for a two-night stand at Mandalay Bay Events Center during New Year’s Eve weekend.
“Vegas is the place to be on New Year’s,” Valentine says. “It really has become a hardcore tradition for us. We turn it into a party for ourselves, too. We invite a lot of our friends out from Los Angeles — and from all over. My family usually comes in from Utah. It’s a huge party.
There’s something new this time around, though: The band will be hitting town for the first time since the release of its sixth album, “Red Pill Blues,” which came out in November.
On it, Maroon 5 continues its practice of working with a number of songwriters and producers — over a dozen this time out — an approach that began in earnest with the group’s fourth record, 2012’s “Overexposed,” which yielded one of Maroon 5’s biggest hits, the Wiz Khalifa-abetted “Payphone,” which has sold close to 10 million copies.
Like that smash single, Maroon 5 collaborates with various hip-hop luminaries on “Red Pill Blues,” with guest spots from Future, Kendrick Lamar and Asap Rocky.
The difference this time is that the band embraces hip-hop production values like never before, with frontman Adam Levine wrapping his lithe vocals around a lean backdrop of skittering beats and an intermittent digital throb. It’s an inviting contrast, the warmth of Levine’s voice set against the chill of murmuring electronics.
Working with so many collaborators, it’s hard for even the band members to anticipate the direction that a certain record will go — even as they’re writing it.
“I’ve stopped making predictions about what our records are going to sound like,” Valentine says, noting that he and his band mates at least had a general idea of the type of album they wanted to make this go-round.
And then, of course, they went in a different direction entirely.
“We did have a plan, right at the beginning, we were thinking like, ‘Let’s go back to doing more live-sounding recordings,’ recording all together in a room,” he says. “And the sound we ended up with did emerge over time. We started to put together songs and then maybe a couple of them emerge as really special, then those sort of become the linchpins for the rest of the record and you build it around that.”
The band has some “Red Pill” material worked up for this weekend, along with perhaps a few cover songs, Valentine hints.
Makes sense: New year, new tunes.
“It’s such a great time to feel the energy of Vegas,” he says. “People are dressed up. There’s an extra amount of excitement in the air.”
Some other shows of note this weekend:
■ The Foo Fighters, Sunday, The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan: It’s the biggest show of the weekend in a not-so-big venue, as the Foos downsize from stadiums and arenas to a 3,000-seater as they continue to support their latest album, “Concrete and Gold.” Speaking of gold, a ticket to this sold-out show is worth its weight in the stuff, with ducats commanding upward of $400 on resell sites.
■ Zac Brown Band, Friday, The Chelsea: Speaking of the Foos, back in 2013, these roots rockers cut an EP with Dave Grohl at the helm. Now, they’ll be at the same venue on the same weekend. Could we see a surprise appearance by one or the other at their respective shows? Yeah, the odds are against it, probably, but hey, at least it’s not as much of a long shot as you keeping your New Year’s resolution.
■ Pennywise, Sunday, House of Blues at Mandalay Bay: You know how during the big holiday movie season Hollywood will often open a raunchy comedy or horror flick to balance all the Oscar fare? Well, here we have the musical equivalent of that with some bro-punk counterprogramming via Pennywise. For those who prefer toasting the new year with Budweiser in place of Champagne.
■ Duran Duran, Saturday, The Chelsea: “Save a Prayer” you know someone with tix to this one, as only a few remain as of press time, and they will most assuredly be long gone when these Brit synth pop favorites hit the stage to the delight of all the wild boys in the house.
■ MSTRKRFT, Sunday, The Bunkhouse Saloon: With beats as outsize as the throngs of revelers flocking to the Strip, this maximum-impact Canadian electro duo works the body like a butcher tenderizing a side of beef — only with less blood, more beer.
■ Ja Rule and Ashanti, Sunday, Brooklyn Bowl at The Linq: Ja Rule and Ashanti were once pop rap’s reigning power couple — in song, if not actual nuptials — his voice like sandpaper, hers like that of a sighing Tinkerbell. Now, these two former Murder Inc. label mates reunite onstage in a bid to “Mesmerize” like it was 2003 in perpetuity.
■ Bruno Mars, Saturday and Sunday, Park Theater at the Monte Carlo: Apparently, it’s all the good Lord’s fault. “We too fresh / Got to blame it on Jesus,” Mars sings on the title track of his latest pop-funk throwback, “24K Magic.” “Hashtag ‘blessed’ / They ain’t ready for me.” Oh, Vegas is ready to put all those pinky rings to the moon, though the best seats in the house will run you a cool $1,875 apiece.
Contact Jason Bracelin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0476. Follow @JasonBracelin on Twitter.