Ah, to breathe the air of the Bowery Ballroom again. I left New York some two and half years ago and headed west to sunny Los Angeles, but I can’t count the number of nights, back when I was a Lower East Side girl, that I spent watching bands play the Bowery — or toiling away in the downstairs bar. Last night, I found myself back at the old haunt, but to catch my new hometown’s favorite sons, Maroon 5, as they continued their club tour. Given the industry-heavy crowd the guys played for at L.A.’s Troubadour last week (yes, I was at that show, too), I was surprised when, walking up Delancey St., I noticed a ridiculously long line of actual fans. Inside, the scene was no different. People filled every inch of the room in what was certainly a warm welcome from an often jaded venue.
Truth be told, I haven’t seen the Bowery this packed since I caught the Coldplay show where Chris and Gwyneth first made eyes at each other. Maroon 5 inspired sheer pandemonium in the room, kicking off with their very first hit single, "Harder to Breathe" and their latest, "Makes Me Wonder." Say what you will about their brand of funk-infused pop, but on this night, Maroon 5 simply rocked.
Frontman Adam Levine has a reputation for many things, but being astellar guitar player is not one of them. This is unfair. Playing thesignature First Act guitar that bears his name, Adam displayed animpressive knack for solos and hard-driving riffs. Add to hisinstrumental skills the serious chops of rhythm guitarist JamesValentine, bassist Mickey Madden, keyboardist Jesse Carmichael anddrummer Matt Flynn, and you end up with a tight band that can trulyjam. And so they did, on new songs like "Wake Up Call," "Little of YourTime," and "I Won’t Go Home Without You," as well as crowdpleasingchestnuts like "Sunday Morning" and "This Love," which Adam started offa cappella. I swear, if you hadn’t had access to MTV in the last fiveyears and just walked into the joint, you might have even mistaken themfor a jam band. Which would probably be just fine with Adam and Co.,who readily admit they were serious Phishheads back in their highschool days.
Then again, there were also the distinct Police and Prince influences, as heard all over the band’s new release It Won’t Be Soon Before Long,that got people bouncing ’round the room. Even a four-months pregnantDrea De Matteo, there with boyfriend Shooter Jennings, was all aboutgetting down. But no one was having more fun than the band — andespecially Adam, who handed his water bottle to a girl in the front rowand joked about not having the cooties. "They think I’ve slept withhalf of America anyway," he deadpanned.
The laughs continued well into the night, as the guys headed to theWest Village’s Beatrice Inn for a private champagne toast andafterparty. With DJ Samantha Ronson manning the decks, Adam, Jesse,Mickey, James, and Matt, ever the consummate hosts, walked from tableto table, checking in on friends and family members. The band’s onlyrequest: don’t talk Sopranos in their presence, as someof them hadn’t yet seen the final episode. (Between Howard Stern, thetour, and Letterman, who has the time?) With Drea — still fired upabout what she thought was "the perfect ending" — in the house, omerta was a tall order, but we tried our best. Now, back to that blackout…