Tuesday, August 13, 2013
Concert review: Bruno Mars expertly mixed old and new at sold-out Dallas show
He brings with him a smoking eight-man band, a slightly naughty sense of humor, and so many super cool dance moves.
DALLAS Old-school, baby.
Yeah yeah, Bruno Mars is 27. But his musical soul is at least twice that age. His dance moves Monday night during a sold-out American Airlines Center concert -- and he worked the stage floor many times -- reminded me of the Temptations, Michael Jackson, James Brown, and Elvis Presley. Mars is light on his feet, and he has passionate internal rhythm.
But even if he proved to be a stiff – I know, highly unlikely – Mars has all the other chops in spades. His songwriting merges ’70s pop and R&B, a smidgen of ’80s reggae, classic hip-hop, and lots of contemporary production values. So nothing sounds dated. Instead, what we get is timeless song craftsmanship delivered with such youthful joy that it fits all ages. His second studio album, 2012′s Unorthodox Jukebox, is even better than his auspicious debut, 2010′s Doo-Wops & Hooligans. The guy is gifted, plain and simple. And that he’s so young makes him almost scary good.
The bulk of the material came from Unorthodox Jukebox. His eight-man band, including a three-man horn section, was smoking from the word go. They are the foundation of Mars’ “The Moonshine Jungle Tour” while the star of the show is the glue that keeps it all together. Take your pick, really, it was all amazing. “Moonshine” was a jam breakdown; “Treasure” was a pop-soul corker; and “Show Me” was all thick reggae jubilance. I loved the disco ball that periodically descended from the platform ceiling. It only added to the yesteryear ambiance.
Yet his signature piece was “When I Was Your Man.” It was just Mars and two keyboardists. He put all cylinders into his vocal performance, channeling the emotional silkiness of the song as well as the lamenting lyrics. From Doo-Wops & Hooligans, “Marry You” was especially energizing, not to mention the effervescent “Grenade” and “Just the Way You Are,” Mars’ career-launching hit. I also enjoyed his cover of B.o.B’s “Nothin’ On You.” (Although, it’s hard to call that a cover since Mars co-wrote the tune and is part of the original recording with Atlanta’s Bobby Ray Simmons, aka B.o.B.) He also did Travie McCoy’s “Billionaire,” another tune he co-penned.
I’m thinking Mars could probably sing just about anything and keep the crowd’s attention. He has a slightly naughty sense of humor, which surfaced here and there during the show, and he’s good at quick ad-libs behind the microphone. He’s there to entertain an audience without using props, pyrotechnics, and production numbers as a crutch.
It’s pretty astounding that Mars, born Peter Hernandez in Honolulu to parents of Puerto Rican and Filipino descent, spent so much time writing songs for others to turn into hits (Brandy and Flo Rida, for example) before he had his own shot at stardom. Mars was destined to do this. He soaked up all of that old-school flavor in the nick of time to bring it to an appreciate crowd.
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