For once, the support act brings a hit as big as the headliners', though 'Blurred Lines' provides a brief highlight as Robin Thicke sweats his way through a set of workmanlike pop-soul, painfully short on depth bar last year 's best-selling and most controversial single.
Nevertheless, its insistent hooks are received warmly by a crowd less concerned than student unions about mixed messages, while the Canadian r'n'b singer's strained grin suggests a joke taken too far. In comparison, 2013 was quiet for Maroon 5, who had postponed this date from last June. Frontman Adam Levine appeared meanwhile as a judge on the US version of TV music competition The Voice and had the title bestowed on him by a stateside gossip magazine of sexiest man alive.
It is a title he wears more lightly than his comedy scouser moustache, even if he enjoys a monopoly on star quality in his band, an anonymous bunch happy to stay in the background, apart from guitarist James Valentine's bursts forward for his squealing solos. Indeed, the video screens focus as much on extra touring keyboardist PJ Morton, unfazed in such company. While their global fame is based on a series of catchy pop mega-hits, the Los Angeles quintet were actually founded on rehashing Red Chili Peppers' funk-rock, replacing the rap with Levine's smoother delivery, something apparent tonight as the group delve into their back catalogue.
Yet Maroon 5 sound less convincing on the spare, clunking 'Tangled' that rattles around the arena than on the set's more artfully crafted moments. They make a better fist of soft-rock ballad 'Sunday Morning' and 'Love Somebody's buoyant fills and lifts that balance Levine's yearning lyric. Their grounding as a hard-working band serves them well with the Doobie Brothers boogie they apply to 2011 hit 'Moves Like Jagger' and the Chic-style disco riff Valentine copies exactly on a snatch of Daft Punk's 'Get Lucky'. Levine's sweet falsetto is the most effective instrument as for much of the time he plays the part of wronged or regretful suitor. Between songs he is just as self-deprecating. The tattooed singer claims the first time he used the runway into the crowd he was terrified, even though he now struts like a catwalk model, and calls the microphone stand his “security blanket”.
Levine's only misstep comes when he thanks the crowd for their patience, saying “I really appreciate,” before adding, “speaking on behalf of the band”. Given his profile, inevitably suggestions arise he could go solo, something the Californian continually denies. At least the chemistry between Levine and fans is obviously working, as unlike Thicke, Maroon 5 are far from one-hit wonders. While 2012 chart topper 'Payphone' is received rapturously, just as much love is shown to lesser known slowie 'She Will Be Loved', with an arm-waving singalong as Levine is accompanied just by Valentine on acoustic guitar. In this bravely intimate moment for an arena, Levine gets close to his bandmate, suggesting there is just as much security with Maroon 5.