LAS VEGAS -- Maroon 5 is used to playing sold-out arenas
before thousands of screaming fans, mostly young women in love
with ultra-cool lead singer Adam Levine. On Wednesday night in
Sin City, they got a surprise after walking on stage in an
opulent Bellagio ballroom shortly after 10 pm: greying middle
aged men wearing SALT Conference lanyards and loafers.
"In case you don't know who we are, we're Maroon 5," joked
Levine, who performed wearing skinny jeans, a tight black
T-shirt revealing extensive tattoos, and his signature
three-day stubble. Most people in the several hundred person
crowd indeed weren't sure what they were watching. "What's
their name again?" asked one elderly asset trustee; another
40-something hedge fund manager said he looked up the
odd-sounding name shortly before the show. "I had to Google
it," he admitted.
"Awwww yeah!" screamed Levine early on, looking for an echo
from the crowd. No response. An attempt to set a clapping beat
with the audience also fell flat.
Of course, some in the audience watched excitedly,
particularly those in the elevated VIP section sponsored by
Northern Trust. The hippest attendees had changed out of their
daytime suits for a decidedly casual-but-one-percent look:
un-tucked, french cuff dress shirts with two buttons down. But
the styling might equally have been preparation for playing the
Black Jack table or heading to a nightclub later on.
For the most part, hedge funders watched politely if
unenthusiastically while sipping on Bud Light bottles and 2008
Washington state merlot; others networked in the half-full
ballroom, checking their Blackberries in between business card
The concert was for a good cause: SALT's new Aspire Giving
charity initiative benefiting three nonprofits: Network for Teaching
Entrepreneurship, charity:water and Warrior Gateway. Some attendees evidently shelled
out: charity packages included a $15,000 option for
backstage passes and a signed guitar or $1,000 for a VIP
It was one of the last songs shortly after 11 pm, Moves like Jagger, that got the crowd going.
The annoyingly catchy song has spent 45 weeks on Billboard's
top 100 chart, including a stint as the most popular song in
the country. Networking stopped and the iPhone cameras came
out—mostly to take pictures for adoring
children back home.
Sensing a shift, Levine engaged with the SALT audeince. "Where
are the ladies tonight?" he asked as the drummer kept a faint
beat. One could hear a few screams. "That means there are a lot
of dudes here," he shot back. "It's not the best ratio." The
men nodded and laughed knowingly. A few adoring women in front
screamed a little louder, and Levine indulged them. "Ladies,
this song is dedicated to you," he said before launching into
another hit, She
will be loved. "We love you so damn much."
By the end, everyone beamed. Being cool with photos for the
kids to prove it — if only for an hour at a hedge
fund conference — seemed well worth the price of