Too much fun
At prank-filled Houston concert, Adam Levine is the star, but Train's PatMonahan has the voice
At the sold-out Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion Saturday night, the mood was lighthearted and playful as Maroon 5 and Train co-headlined nearly three hours of sing-along tunes to an enthusiastic audience that stood and danced throughout the show.
Both bands' headliners — Maroon 5's Adam Levine and Train's Pat Monahan — noted that Houston was the last stop of an eight-week tour and warned the audience to expect some final show pranks. Sure enough, a marching band composed of Train band members and opening act Matt Nathanson made its way across the stage in mid-song toward the end of Levine's 14-song set.
As it turned out, it was fortunate for Levine that he opened first, because Monhan and Train so dominated the show with superior voice and showmanship that I felt like asking, "Maroon who?" at the end of the evening.
And later, when Monahan prepared to launch into "Marry Me," Nathanson appeared in drag as a would-be bride. Levine apparently engineered the elaborate prank, videotaping members of the band as gay couples for a lead-in to the hit song.
In a recent issue of Out magazine, Levine revealed that his brother Michael is gay, and added, "The fact that gay marriage isn’t legal everywhere at this point is a joke."
As Monahan launched into the soaring ballad, he and Levine weaved their way through the amazed audience, from one end of the reserved area to the other, to screams of delight.
At first I couldn't understand why Maroon 5 came on before Train, since Levine seems the bigger star, especially with his recent success on the hit television series, The Voice. An usher told me between acts that the two bands alternate who goes first during the tour and the Houston stop was Maroon's turn to lead off.
As it turned out, it was fortunate for Levine that he opened first, because Monahan and Train so dominated the show with superior voice and showmanship that I felt like asking, "Maroon who?" at the end of the evening.
Levine seems to be making the most of his mid-career career boost. In skintight jeans and a white T-shirt, the heavily tattooed singer opened with the band's chart-topping single, "Moves Like Mick Jagger," and throughout the evening seemed take on stage characteristics of the iconic rocker, strutting across the stage and shaking his hips. Levine is no Jagger, but he has loads of sex appeal and a bad boy manner. The ceiling fans went off during his set, possibly at his request, as he told the crowd, "Man, it feels good tonight. I like it hot and sweaty."
In skintight jeans and a white T-shirt, the heavily tattooed singer opened with the band's chart-topping single, "Moves Like Mick Jagger," and throughout the evening seemed take on stage characteristics of the iconic rocker, strutting across the stage and flirting with women in the audience.
The set covered all of Maroon's sing-along hits, including "This Love," "Sunday Morning," "Makes Me Wonder," "Misery" and "She Will Be Loved," along with some more rock-oriented numbers like "Harder to Breathe," and "Wake Up Call." Levine is one of those rare singers who sounds as good in concert as he does in a recording studio and he makes it all look effortless, even if his on-stage personality is devoid of much personality.
Our group was satisfied and almost left to beat the traffic back into town, but decided to stay for a couple of songs by Train. The show didn't open promisingly as a train whistle pierced the air — it seemed like such a cliche.
But from that point on, the San Francisco-based band rocked the Pavilion with a mix of hardcore rock, covers of hits (Monahan & Co. did a dazzling mariachi version of Blondie's "Heart of Glass" before seguing into U2's "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For" and continuing with a sizzling cover of Led Zeppelin's “Ramble On”), along with raucous interpretations of their signature songs, "If It's Love," a countryfied "Calling All Angels" (with around 50 female audience members — dubbed the Trainettes — called on stage), "Drops of Jupiter" and "Hey Soul Sister" (the top-selling song on iTunes last year).
And they had such fun doing it, that their enthusiasm was infectious. "We were in Dallas last night; this is already so much better,"Monahan shouted halfway through the set, to huge cheers.
Monahan has a terrific rock voice and such overpowering on-stage charisma, he reminded me of Freddie Mercury in his heyday. While he and Levine were in a standoff over who wore the tighter pants, the Train lead singer was hands down the best entertainer, even if, at 42, he is a decade older and much more worn-looking than sexpot Levine.
While Levine is the bigger star at the moment, Monahan has the voice.
Scenes from the concert (including the wedding prank):