Saturday 15 December 2018

Bruno Mars at 3Arena review: The energy never once flags during a 90-minute set

Recording artist Bruno Mars
Recording artist Bruno Mars

Meadhbh McGrath

Bruno Mars is a classic case of musical Marmite - his tracks are oft dismissed as wedding dance fodder, but over the past couple of years, he’s reinvented himself as the crown prince of funk, initiated by monster hit Uptown Funk.

On the first night of his sold-out concerts at the 3Arena, the influence of his heroes Michael Jackson, James Brown and Elvis Presley (whom Mars once became the youngest professional impersonator of, aged four) is clear.

Support from former Dr Dre protege Anderson Paak lends the evening some underground cool, but when it comes to the real star of the show, the Hawaiian pop king is on sensational form with a setlist that offered something for everyone.

He kicks off the show with a spectacular performance of 'Finesse', a track off his latest album, 24k Magic, with a rattling New Jack beat. Accompanied by his dancing band, The Hooligans, the following performance of the album’s title track establishes the night as one massive party.

The stage production bears all the trademarks of full-force arena pop spectacle, dishing out glitter, flames and fireworks as the set changes from multi-coloured panels reminiscent of a Rubik’s cube to an elevated platform emblazoned with the Versace logo to a series of glowing arches framing Mars and each of his dancers.

The energy never once flags during a 90-minute set filled mostly with brassy, funky tracks from 24k Magic, but Mars is sure to include the hits that made him a star, including Marry You, Grenade and The Way You Are.

He doesn’t reveal much about himself beyond a few requisite audience shout-outs and a sly rebuke when faced with a sea of smartphones: “How can y’all dance when you’re trying to get the shot? You gonna put this on Instagram? #BrunoMars!”

But his charm is irresistible, and he doesn’t need to say much. Mars proves himself to be a consummate entertainer, singing, dancing and playing guitar, often all at the same time and never missing a beat. His exceptionally well-drilled band are perfectly in step with the leading man.

It’s a testament to his talent that even during the more elaborate dances, he doesn’t revert to lip-syncing, and even after a full dance routine, he confidently strips back to just vocals and keyboards for a faultless rendition of When I Was Your Man, effortlessly hitting every note.

After a thrilling encore of Locked Out of Heaven, only the unstoppable Uptown Funk could top it all off, as Mars secures his position as the greatest showman in pop and guarantees the crowd will be singing all the way home.


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