Review: Maroon 5 and Kelly Clarkson at Gexa Energy Pavilion

Posted 9:29am on Monday, Sep. 23, 2013

If absolute power corrupts absolutely, what about reality television?

In the two years Adam Levine has served as a “coach” on NBC’s hit singing competition The Voice, he’s moved further and further away from being front man of Maroon 5 and worked hard to establish himself as his own, separate brand.

There’s no question TV has been good for band business — one glance around the sold-out Gexa Energy Pavilion Sunday night would affirm that much — but over the course of a roughly 80-minute set, Levine often seemed less interested in being a rock star and more focused on just appearing like one, propping up his credentials before another season mentoring young hopefuls begins (Mondays on NBC!).

I hadn’t seen Maroon 5 live since 2007 — they’ve denied media access on most tours over the last three years, including this one and the Overexposed tour, which stopped in Dallas in March — but the quintet was far more focused and enjoyable six years ago. (Some of that might simply be chemistry: founding member Jesse Carmichael is taking a break from the band, leaving only Levine and bassist Mickey Madden as remaining original members.)

More than once, a guitar tech would hand Levine a guitar, only to have him strum a few stray rhythm licks and remove the instrument, as he did at the conclusion of opener One More Night. Much more of his time was spent preening, posing and generally coming across a smug superstar. It was charisma in service of ego, rather than entertainment.

The set list was stacked with songs that have helped the band sell more than 27 million records worldwide, and as such, hummed right along, with one multi-platinum chorus tumbling into the next.

But instead of joyous, the performance felt rote, mechanical and bloodless — I mean, who covers Prince and makes the tune feel passionless, as Maroon 5 did with His Purpleness’ I Wanna Be Your Lover?

“You say I’m a kid/My ego is big/I don’t give a [expletive],” Levine sang during the main set closing Moves Like Jagger. Meant to have a satiric edge, it instead rang out like truth, echoing over the heads of the screaming, lusty fans who were far more interested in ogling Levine’s tattooed torso than experiencing a polished pop show.

Guess he knows what he’s doing after all.

Burleson-bred pop star Kelly Clarkson warmed up the stage with an hour-long set that felt like 20 minutes. Much like the headliner, hers was a singles showcase, although she did take time out to deliver a potent cover of Aretha Franklin’s I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You).

At something of a professional crossroads — ever so slowly, Clarkson is dipping her toe into country music — her song choice occasionally reflected her currently fractured artistic sensibilities. A stripped down, acoustic rendition of Don’t You Wanna Stay and her current “country” single Tie It Up contrasted sharply with the pogoing fizziness of My Life Would Suck Without You and the sleek atmospherics of Catch My Breath.

Rather than feel disjointed, Clarkson held it all together by her sheer force of personality (and a trio of costume changes), an example of someone catapulted to stardom by reality television who survived instead of succumbing.

Preston Jones, 817-390-7713 Twitter: @prestonjones

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