My one and only Maroon 5 gig, and a rare chance to witness a band on the brink of superstardom.
This was an unusual choice of gig for me. 2003 is marked out as a year in which I tried out seeing a lot of bands I hadn’t seen before, and in fact, the five artists I saw in September and October of that year were all new to me as live acts. However, Maroon 5, being American purveyors of blues-tinged poppy rock music, were particularly at odds with my usual proclivity towards the more glam end of British indie.
And the way I became, very briefly, a Maroon 5 fan was an indication of just how much things were changing in my music fan life. Instead of discovering the band through radio airplay or a music TV show, I had my burgeoning Harry Potter obsession to thank for my decision to see Maroon 5 live. I’d heard their song “Through With You” soundtracking a Remus/Sirius fanvid, which I have search the net for with the hope of linking it here, but it seems to have completely disappeared. The tuneful drama of the song appealed to me, and so I downloaded its associated album “Songs About Jane”, which impressed me enough that I then bought a ticket for this gig.
So off I strode on this mild autumn night to Camden town. Over the nearly seven years I’d lived in London I’d spent many a Saturday morning in Camden, perusing the record fairs and esoteric markets, but I’d never been there at night before – strangely, my gigging activities had not yet found me at the Roundhouse or the Camden Palace or indeed Dingwalls, renamed here Lock 17. And I found I had a bit of time for a wander. From my diary:
‘It was only a bit past 8 when I got to the venue, and a sign on the door informed me that the support act would not be on ‘til 8.30, so I thought I’d have a bit of a wander along the lock, as it was a lovely night. Was offered marijuana by a variety of spaced-out Jamaicans, which was amusing. Decided it was probably not safe to wander too far (not ‘cos of the Jamaicans – they were so chilled as to be barely awake) so I went into the venue.‘
Once in the venue I navigated the unfamiliar terrain to find myself a decent spot. ‘Interesting layout – bar at one end, stage at the other, and about four descending levels of floor in between. I got to the one closest to the stage, where everyone was sitting on the floor and dappled with rotating blue and pink lights. It all felt a bit hippy and groovy.’
Sitting on the floor to wait for a gig to start was not something that happened at my usual gigs, but I decided to adapt to the situation. ‘So I sat down and waited for the support band, at which point everyone stood up. It was a folk-indie warbler by the name of Stephen Fretwell, who was dull, really, though his songs seemed to get better towards the end, or maybe they just sounded better from a distance ‘cos by then I’d given up on him and gone to the loo.‘
A bit of a harsh assessment on young Stephen there, but given that Wikipedia tells me that he has since gone on to play bass for the Last Shadow Puppets and write the theme song to Gavin and Stacey, I think he won’t be too harmed by one slightly damning, and very late, review.
So I ventured back towards the stage once the support slot was over and tried to the perfect spot for the gig ahead. I was put off angling for my usual down the front spot by the unusual logisitcs of the stage area.
‘The stage, though! It was a small square raised about 30cm from the floor! And no barrier whatsoever! You’d have to be pretty hardcore to be dtf there. I stood fourish rows back on the left, and had a great view.‘
(Yes, I used to write dtf for Down The Front, which amuses me no end on reading these entries now.)
And even though this was a new type of gig for me, I stayed true to form when reporting in my diary, which was to first record the crucial information of the evening: How did the band look?
‘A suspicion aroused by the very high proportion of teen girls there turned out to be true, that is, Maroon 5 are quite a good-looking band. Especially the singer – I’d expected someone who’d warble such huge funk anthems to be a bit beefy, but no! He was a lovely skinny thing, in a white school-type shirt with a heart drawn on the shoulder, skinny tie, and jeans. Now he’s one who could do with a tight black t-shirt. Not bad-looking too – impressive cheekbones in evidence, and a passive resemblance to Will from Will and Grace. He seemed to be in an entirely different band to the guitarist and bassist, who with their twin Chad hairdos looked like they were straight outta Indie Central. Nevertheless the three of them had great chemistry on stage, rawkin’ out together in that boyish way, with the scissor kicks and synchronised fretwork.‘
Once the aesthetic assessment was over, I was able to get to the musical content of the evening. And it turned out to be pretty damn good!
‘Oh yes! Music! Even in such tiny surroundings, their funk-rawk-blues-soul-fusion tunes worked predictably well live. Hearing them rattle through the album made me realise how many great tunes they have on it, with stonking hooks that have needled their way into my consciousness even after so short a time. And it was great fun watching the singer (must find out their names one of these days) with his flailing funk mannerisms.’
I also found myself examining the crowd with interest. It seems I had my first mass encounter with the people who would become The Millennials that night – young people born five to ten years after me. I assessed them as being Quite Okay.
‘The crowd seemed to be mainly Americans as it turned out, with a smattering of curious English, and all late teens / early 20s types. They were hard to place – I guess they’re what happens when kids get into music without taking either the indie kid or the pop screamer route. Not my crowd, but harmless enough.‘
So, a nice evening, a fun gig, but nothing revelatory or ground-breaking for my musical life. I enjoyed it enough to plan on future Maroon 5 gigging ventures.
‘Certainly it’s a novelty for me to even remotely consider liking a band like this. Give me a few months to get to know all their tunes, and I’ll be down the front at the Astoria warbling along to every word. That is, if they play there.‘
In fact, a year later they would be playing even bigger London venues than the Astoria, headlining several shows at Shepherd’s Bush Empire and Brixton Academy. But I wasn’t there. I don’t really recall why I drifted away – perhaps they were just too far away from my usual areas of musical interest to sustain my fandom for very long. Of course, they went on to massive, stadium-straddling success, so I couldn’t help but be aware of them over the years to come. But nothing they subsequently released really grabbed me quite as strongly as their debut album did.
So this gig remains an oddity within my gigging career – a chance to witness superstars-to-be performing on a tiny stage in a tiny Camden venue. And, for all I enjoyed it, I expect it will remain the one and only Maroon 5 gig I’ll ever attend.