BWW Review: Alan Wiggins and Nathan Salstone take lead in 54 SINGS MAROON 5 at 54 Below
54 Below, NYC, November 11th, 2019
One thing remains true, I love 54 Sings shows. After yet another show featuring good vibes and good tunes, I left satisfied and appreciative of this venue's consistent celebration of music and its ability to feature rising talent. There were some strong, consistent favorites of mine that were back again, Danny Quadrino, Nathan Salstone, and Morgan Reilly, along with some new favorites that stole the show. A unique aspect of this particular 54 Sings show was the sometimes-drastic changes to the style and arrangement of Maroon 5's music. Props go to Luke Williams for handling the arrangements; a key aspect of which being the ability to help amplify the strengths of those who took the stage. Of course, the singers on the other side of the equation also had abilities to make this fusion beautiful, and a few performers in particular deserve key mentions.
My favorite performer of the night was definitely Alan Wiggins. In many ways, I feel like his version of "What Lovers Do" was better Adam Levine himself. With his melodic cooing and the lines, "Say Say Say/ Hey, hey now baby," he buried this average Maroon 5 tune into my memory rather than at the bottom of my playlist. Part of the reason for this may be that, with Wiggins singing the tune, it had more of the sweet and low vibe of "Let's Get It On" by Marvin Gaye than usual. While Wiggins didn't make drastic changes to the style of the song, Marcus Paul James, on the other hand, gave "Payphone" an added later of emotion and a Broadway vibe. By slowing the song down and emphasizing the lyrical intensity, James's version became an intimate exploration of relationship failure rather than the "moving on quickly" dance club number. It was also nice to see a performer step out from the way a song was traditionally performed to make the song their own. Another example of a performer who does this well is Morgan Reilly, who as mentioned is one my consistent favorites. She tends to give things her own spin, and this time, while showing off her stunning range and unique sound on "Maps," she added her own rap between soaring choruses.
Another few performers that deserve praise, along with the aforementioned Daniel Quadrino, Nathan Salstone, are Heath Saunders, Jim Hogan, and Christian Thompson. I can't say enough good things about Nathan Salstone, who continuously impresses every time he takes the stage. He has an easy-going nature and always deserves a tip of the cap for his stage presence and professionalism. His early performance of Maroon 5's "Sunday Morning" really set the tone for the show as he bridged the gap between Maroon 5's fist pumping uptempos and their slower, more melancholic melodies. A patient audience still wasn't sure what to expect from this lineup of performers, when he cracked a grin, pulled out a Melodica, and exuded confidence through the line, "Clouds are shrouding us in moments unforgettable" to remind them of the magic of live music.
Many examples of Maroon 5's different styles were on display. Heath Saunders launched the show into full gear with the first song being, "Moves Like Jagger." His high energy performance brought the audience into the show early, however, generally it was the songs on the other side of the Maroon 5 spectrum that caught my attention, including "Daylight," "Harder to Breathe," and "One More Night" sung by Quadrino, Thompson, and Hogan, respectively. While to various degrees they put a similar intensity to Saunders into their stage performances, songs about goodbye don't have that same naturally positive vibe. Each of these singers made the most of what they had to work with by making unforgettable moments for an appreciative audience. Hogan, of the three, utilized pauses in and phrasing to full effect. This drop-like effect created a finale-worthy performance near to the end of the show.
On "Harder to Breathe," performed by Thompson, it'd be remiss not to mention the guitarist, Sus Vasquez who put her all into an epic solo as Thompson stepped to the side of the piano to watch. The whole band did a fantastic job and featured Billy Smolen on bass, Joshua Roberts on drums, Russell McCook on cello, and previously mentioned, music director, Luke Williams on piano. If you're looking for a taste of cabaret, keep an eye out for the next 54 Sings.