Playing to a sold-out Tampa Bay Times Forum, Bruno Mars gave disgruntled small-show-lovin' music-heads like me a reason to believe again with a flawless, lively and splashy stage show Wednesday night.
A curtain embroidered with gold palm trees covered the massive stage and collapsed to a Brazilian beat as Bruno Mars and his band emerged in smart Rat Pack-esque attire. Mars' "Moonshine Jungle" tour was a throwback to the showmanship of yesteryear with the technology and playful raunch of today. The smooth dance moves on display — by him and his band — revealed that he's done his old school homework. Along with shimmering lights and shifting stage designs, the choreography provided the most eye candy of the night, recalling Manhattans and O'Jays performances on old variety shows.
Belting out with his trademark Panama hat, Mars covered a stylistic gamut that ran from Motown to reggae with Stax soul, Afro rhythms and drippy power ballads in between. Of course, the majority of his set included tunes from his two albums, Unorthodox Jukebox (2012) and Doo-Wops and Hooligans (2010) with a medley of covers, highlighted by Barrett Strong's 1959 hit "(Money) That's What I Want." He strapped on a Fender for a few songs, showing off some ax solos between the gyrations.
Also as expected, a heckuva lot of females — Kotex was even a sponsor on the JumboTron. The show offered a lesson in how phone technology has brought out the most cloying of deadly sins out in women: vanity. You could even say the selfies on display were a comedic supporting act. Blocking rows and views of the stage, women shot photos of themselves and even prevailed on strangers to shoot photos of them. Offenders ranged from jailbait in tube tops and short shorts and MILFs dressed to the nines.
Female majority aside, the show had a vast range of fans. The 14K-plus crowd comprised seniors, kids, middle-aged couples, senior couples and every age group in between. There was a refreshing lack of subculture; people of all types who simply dig Bruno Mars' tunes. Such a label-less melting pot of fans is rare nowadays.
Mars even ordered the crowd to put their phone cameras away and dance, a command easy to follow since his super-tight band delivered rump-shaking rhythms aplenty, reinforced by a powerful horn section. Highlights included "Runaway Baby" and his main set finale, and the ballad "Just the Way You Are," which had the entire audience swaying and singing along.
A comedic interlude involved the entire band challenging Mars to an "Out-Game-A-Thon" — they macked one by one on a concertgoer named Chrissie — followed by some wacky stage humping to seal the deal; the closest they got to twerking.
The "Locked Out of Heaven"/"Gorilla" encore came without the tedious audience stomp and cheers (probably because Mars didn't take the stage until 9:30 p.m. and they had to tie things up), but the performance was energetic even by Mars' robo-talent standards. He started the monster hit playing a drum solo on a rising platform, and gold confetti filled the hall during the whoa-whoa-whoa-filled chorus.
Fitz and the Tantrums did a commendable job of warming up the crowd with effervescent co-ed indie soul. Their set included a cool cover of "Sweet Dreams (Are Made of This)" by the Eurythmics and the lush "Out of My League." Especially cool: Their multicolor-lighted heart, which hung on the backdrop like a giant disco pendant.
BRUNO MARS SET LIST
Our First Time
If I Knew/It Will Rain
Nothing On You
When I Was Your Man
Just the Way You Are
Drum solo by Mars — On Lift
Locked Out of Heaven