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Maroon 5

Rialto Theatre, Sunday, May 16

Downtown Tucson is typically sleepy on a Sunday evening, so when a large event takes place, there's palpable energy in the air. Excitement is easily perceptible when the norm is somnambulance.

Perhaps the line--which began to form early in the day outside the Rialto's door, and eventually snaked all the way around the corner of Fifth Avenue--was an obvious indicator of A Big Show. But it was the scads of young women and their preternaturally bubbly "teen spirit" that gave the proceedings the air of A Happening.

After a pair of uninspired "modern rock" (in the most damningly generic sense of the phrase) performances from Big City Rock and The Red West, Maroon 5 assembled in front of their enormous banner to the delighted and deafening screams of the audience; it was undoubtedly the loudest audience response I've ever heard in the Rialto, like an ecstatic swarm of teenage cicadas.

Newly shorn lead singer Adam Levine demonstrated his expertise at all the standard arena rock tropes throughout the evening--"We love you, Tucson!" was of course met with the screams of reciprocated adulation--"We love you, too, Adam!" the crowd giddily beamed back. This is a young man who clearly spent much of his adolescence practicing in front of a mirror for just such moments.

Alternating between surprisingly badass rocking ("Harder to Breathe," "Shiver"), hook-laden pop (the current Top 10 single "This Love") and somewhat wimpy yet oddly pleasant balladry ("Must Get Out"), Maroon 5's set was taut, mechanically precise and energetic, tainted only by the suspicion of insincerity.

After perhaps an hour-long initial set, the group returned from toweling off backstage, and Levine reported that during their foray outside, they encountered a punk rocker standing outside Skrappy's, the all-ages punk venue that shares a parking area with the Rialto. "Without saying a word, he saw us and went (throws up a vicious middle finger a la the famous Johnny Cash photo)," said Levine. Skillfully, he turned it into a crowd pleaser: "But they don't have an audience like this over there!" he said, which was of course met with screams of approval.

A note of caution: The show closer, "Sweetest Goodbye," evoked Terence Trent D'Arby, which is not a bad thing in and of itself. But since "Breathe" sounds like they're channeling Lenny Kravitz, and "This Love" is a dead ringer for Jamiroquai, they may want to be careful they don't go in some Color Me Badd or Hanson direction next. Just saying.

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