SCRANTON — Pop music superstars Maroon 5 and Kelly Clarkson threw a Labor Day weekend bash in Scranton on Sunday, and more than 18,000 of their closest friends showed up to party.
Most of the large crowd on Sunday was made up of young women and teenaged girls as the double bill of the first-ever “American Idol” winner with her girl-power anthems and the band fronted by the dreamy reality TV star Adam Levine proved to be very much to their liking.
The Toyota Pavilion at Montage Mountain was sold out for only the third time in its 14-year history as a fleet of school buses shuttled concert-goers from makeshift parking lots all over the mountain. The facility, which began life in 1999 as the Montage Mountain Amphitheater (and spent four years as the Ford Pavilion before gaining its current name in 2006), was previously sold out for shows by the Dave Matthews Band on its first area visit in 2005 and again in 2006.
The official attendance mark was not available at press time, but unofficial estimates had the crowd as large as 20,000. Online sources estimate the capacity for the large amphitheater at 18,000, but who knows just how many people can be squeezed onto the lawn, especially if chairs are not allowed (and they weren’t on Sunday)?
The show got underway at 7 p.m. with a short and sweet set by Rozzi Crane, Levine’s protégé from “The Voice.” Many of Sunday’s concert-goers missed her performance as they waited for the buses to make it up the mountain, but got to catch a glimpse of her during one of Maroon 5’s songs later in the evening.
Clarkson, the 2002 “American Idol” champion who has sustained a decade-long career with her songs of female empowerment, took the stage at 7:50 with a sassy version of “Stronger (What Doesn’t Kill You).”
She then rattled off a string of her anthems, each sounding pretty much the same: The majority of the song becoming almost unidentifiable until she kicked into the chorus with either “C’mon!” or “Sing it!”
Although it was hard to tell where “Catch My Breath” ended or “My Life Would Suck Without You” began, thousands of mothers stood on chairs next to their daughters as both generations sang along with Clarkson.
The now 31-year-old singer used her voice to better effect on a string of ballads, soaring through versions of “Breakaway,” “Because of You” and a stripped-down solo version of “Don’t You Wanna Stay,” which was recorded as a duet with Jason Aldean.
Clarkson wrapped up her hour-long performance with a nice rendition of Aretha Franklin’s “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You)” and strong versions of her own hits “Mr. Know It All,” “People Like Us” and “Since U Been Gone.”
A little more than 30 minutes after Clarkson finished up, Maroon 5 appeared to a deafening wall of screams as the large crowd welcomed the band and its reggae-influenced song “One More Night.”
Judging by the screams when he appeared on the numerous video screens, most eyes were on Levine, who sported a white T-shirt emblazoned with “Adolescents 1997 Tour” in red, and, much to the chagrin of many of the tweeters whose words filled the screens between acts, he kept his shirt on throughout the performance.
But Levine is more than eye candy, as evidenced by his strong vocals on renditions of “This Love,” “Lucky Strike” and “Tangled” early in the evening.
Levine’s bandmates were just as good as James Valentine (guitar), Mickey Madden (bass), Matt Flynn (drums) and PJ Morton (keyboards) plus touring guitarist Sam Farrar flawlessly replicated the band’s many hits throughout its 65-minute main set.
The band seemed to be having fun on Sunday, adding a horn section for “Sunday Morning” and segueing into Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke,” Prince’s “I Wanna Be Your Lover” and Daft Punk’s “Get Lucky” in the middle of its songs.
Maroon 5 finished strongly as the main set ended with “Moves Like Jagger” and the three-song encore featured “Payphone” and early hit “She Will Be Loved.”
“We have played in many, many towns, but we have never played in front of a crowd this big,” Levine said about midway through Sunday’s show. “So, thank you so much! God, we love you so (expletive) much!”