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Bruno Mars Sprinkles Solid Gold Dust at L.A. Tour Stop (And We Love It): Concert Review

Bruno Mars live 2013 P
Getty Images for Atlantic Records

The Bottom Line

Bringing a Staples Center crowd to its feet, the singer proves why he's pop's great hope -- and the future is better off for it. 

Venue

Staples Center
Los Angeles
(Saturday, July 27)

 

Nothing says an evening out quite like a Bruno Mars concert – and in the case of the singer’s July 27 stop at Los Angeles' Staples Center, Saturday night was made for dancing.

The 27-year-old Hawaiian born hitmaker, who’s almost single-handedly returned pop music to its R&B and funk roots with radio smashes like “Locked Out of Heaven” and “Treasure,” in addition to featured turns on songs by B.o.B. (“Nothing On You”) and Travie McCoy (“Billionaire”), sprinkled his solid gold dust on those assembled in the 20,000-seat-capacity arena and it’s safe to say, nearly all were smiling ear-to-ear.

They were just following by example. Onstage Mars and his merry band of eight, which included three horn players and Smeezington cohort Phillip Lawrence on vocals, in addition to a guitarist, bassist and drummer, had energy to spare as they ran through choreographed opening numbers like “Moonshine,” “Natalie” and “Treasure.” It became clear almost instantly that here was a group whose sole purpose is to entertain – and, sure enough, they had it down to a science.

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It’s not like Mars’ set had such tremendous visuals -- pyro aside, glittering gold lights were the order of the day -- but the sheer showmanship was truly a sight to behold. From lovebird favorites like “Marry You” and “Our First Time” to the undeniable hooks of “When I Was Your Man” and “Grenade,” Mars’ unenhanced vocals served as an instant reminder of why he’s among the best male vocalists that the music industry has to offer. Add the sophistication of his melodies and lyrics -- best represented on the singalong closer “Just the Way You Are” -- and you have music’s great pop hope.

In fact, you saw how far-reaching Bruno Mars’ appeal is simply by the audience makeup at Staples. For every couple embracing in the crowd -- and there were plenty of those -- you could also spot entire families making a night of it. And if that means Mars marks these kids’ first concert, then hallelujah. At least they’re exposed to real singing, as opposed to most of today’s arena acts which often lip-synch to track and hide behind showy gimmicks.

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Indeed, there were few enhancements to the music, other than two video screens purposely made to look like you were watching a broadcast that would have fit on a 1970s live television special by Don Kirshner Presents. With the exception of Mars’ Four Tops-like moves, all eyes and ears were on the night’s star, especially on slower numbers like “Grenande,” that showed off his high-pitched pipes.

The highlight, however, was the encore. “Locked Out of Heaven,” a sexually-charged anthem of the highest order with its inescapable Police-like groove had the house on its feet and howling along like there’s no tomorrow. Trading verses with the crowd, Mars looked elated. Clearly, this was heaven for the singer, who had paid his dues and came out on top.

Mars closed the night with “Gorilla,” which is already gaining buzz as a potential next single. It would be a fitting choice from Unorthodox Jukebox, his second full-length and the follow-up to the beloved debut Doo-Wops and Hooligans, as it demonstrates not only Mars’ retro-esque signature sound, but the very best of his stellar band’s abilities. Most importantly, however, it’s the mark of an artist who has truly grown into his own with more goodness surely to come.

Set List:

Intro
Moonshine
Natalie
Treasure
Money Make Her Smile
Billionaire
Show Me
Our First Time
Marry You
If I Knew / It Will Rain
Runaway
Nothing On You
When I Was Your Man
Grenade
Just the Way You Are

Encore:

Locked Out of Heaven
Gorilla

Twitter: @THRMusic

Getty Images for Atlantic Records