This week I took my daughter and a friend hers to the Maroon 5 concert. In the Virginia of my childhood, concerts were raucous and druggy affairs; you could get a contact high taking a deep breath at a Doobie Brothers show (before Michael McDonald joined, anyway). Here, things are different. When we reached the HP Pavilion, the entrance was cordoned off; instead of walking right in, we had to go through a long barricade that diverted us away from the door, only to dissolve back into chaos once we got up to the entrance.
“Typical crappy HP interface,” someone behind me said.
Welcome to a rock concert in Silicon Valley, where you can overhead offhand UX slams.
For those of you who have never heard them: take the pop sensibility of any single-named star, sonic elements of disco, Motown, and 1980s pop, contagiously singable hooks and some wonderfully unexpected bridges and transition, and you have Maroon 5. (Check out “Makes Me Wonder” as a perfectly-crafted song illustrating all of the above.)
As for the lyrics, well, they’re not Shakespeare. Most of their songs are about sex, and the rest sound like it. Adam Levine, like Amy Winehouse, is one of those singers who could make “pass the salt please” sound like a double entendre; fortunately his lyrical sensibilities are much closer to Cole Porter than Dr. Dre, so I’m more sanguine about my kids listening to them.
Part of their charm is that even their songs about heartbreak aren’t sad: the melodies and rhythms are as peppy as their songs about seduction and sex. If Taylor Swift sounds like she’s always surprised and hurt when a relationship fails, Adam Levine treats it as just another phase; he’s not at all cavalier or callous, but in songs like “Misery” and the fantastic “This Love” the downsides of relationships are– not to be enjoyed, exactly, but as much a part of romance as the good parts. You can be as passionate about the “she’s driving me crazy” or “I’m driving myself crazy because I drove her away by being so thoughtless” phase as the rest of it.
Maybe that’s why a significant proportion of the crowd on Wednesday night was, as my daughter noted, recently-divorced middle-aged women: this is music that takes an easy attitude to the consequences of poor judgment, while also tapping into middle school memories of listening to their older sisters’ copies of Off the Wall and Songs in the Key of Life.
I’m glad I got to take my daughter and her friend. It suggests that maybe as we get older it isn’t inevitable that I become completely alienated from them.
And as you can tell from the pictures, the show was awesome. Just incredible. And the only thing smoking was the dry ice.