“I mean, who doesn’t love Bruno Mars?”
This rhetorical question—a quotation from a woman I had just met in the restroom of the National Harbor’s MGM Resort and Casino—echoed throughout my mind as I entered the building’s spacious theater on December 27th, twenty minutes before Mars was set to perform. Instantly, I noticed that the crowd in the room was a bit like the crowd you’d find at your average shopping mall, meaning that every imaginable type of person was present. In front of me was a middle-aged couple. To my right were two elderly ladies. Behind me was a group of boisterous teenage girls. To my left, a few parents with small children were strolling into the venue.
As I sat in my chair, waiting for the show to begin, I realized just how great the cultural dissonance between the audience members was. One of the elderly ladies asked me if I was wearing “Born boots” and I wasn’t quite sure what she was talking about; the teenagers behind me rapped “Look at Me Now” at a rapid-fire pace and some onlookers seemed confused. However, when the lights went down, any and all awkwardness disappeared. A collective shout of excitement rose toward the chandeliers hanging from the ceiling, and everyone jumped up to get a glimpse of the stage. Why? In retrospect, the answer is simple. As the woman from the restroom implied, Bruno Mars is a modern marvel, someone who has discovered the secret formula for creating accessible, yet creative music that transcends insignificant barriers like age. Who doesn’t love Bruno Mars?
The concert began with “24k Magic,” Mars’s current hit. The song was the best possible way to kick off the night. When Mars ran onstage to roaring applause, singing, “It’s showtime/Guess who’s back again?”, his lyrics seemed as if they had been written for the moment at hand. Fireworks glittered in the air, but they were not the center of the attention—that title went to Mars, whose confident demeanor and truly impressive voice had everyone cheering.
Mars was not the only entertainer roaming the stage. He was joined by a handful of multi-talented individuals known as the Hooligans, who acted as backup singers, dancers, and instrumentalists. Although Mars was clearly the star of the show, these performers made an indispensable contribution to the concert in the same way that ensemble members contribute to a musical, ensuring that each number was an immersive, explosive experience. Without them, the night would have been far less memorable.
After “24k Magic,” Mars launched into a fun performance of “Treasure” featuring choreography that mirrored the dance moves shown in the music video. Then he sang “Top of the World,” which was introduced as the first song he ever wrote but sounded good enough to be on his new album. A horn-fueled frenzy with lyrics full of romantic promises, it was delivered with the perfect balance of rowdiness and sweetness.
The rest of the night was a mix of old favorites and songs from Mars’s recent release 24k Magic, with a couple of lively-sounding covers (“Money (That’s What I Want)” and “Ignition”) thrown in for good measure. Mars inhabited the story of each song completely, injecting every lyric with heartfelt-sounding joy, anger, or pain. During “Billionaire,” he played the role of a starry-eyed new musician dreaming of the fruits of fame. During “When I Was Your Man,” he became a devastated ex-lover lamenting the loss of his favorite woman. During “Runaway Baby,” he turned into a clever, cocky player. Always, though, he was on top of his game, engaging with the crowd and using up every inch of the stage. Due to his energy and retro sound, I found myself making Michael Jackson comparisons as I watched him. A bit hyperbolic? Possibly—but the fact that the thought persisted in my mind says something.
Throughout the concert, I was pleasantly surprised by Mars’s sense of humor. At one point, he gently rebuked his fans for being on their phones and then held a cheesy pose so that they could take a photo to remember him by before putting their devices away. Later on, when the crowd’s cheering had faded a little, he teasingly said, “If you’re gonna be quiet, we’re gonna be quiet too” and proceeded to perform with the Hooligans playing at an incredibly low volume. The applause instantly increased, and soon, Mars and his crew were back to playing at full blast. I also appreciated the fact that Mars changed each song enough to make it sound different from the record, but not so much that it was unrecognizable. In addition, I was blown away by Mars’s adeptness at playing the electric guitar; his solos were some of the best parts of the show.
The spectacle ended with “Uptown Funk,” the unforgettable Mark Ronson/Bruno Mars collaboration that was omnipresent throughout the entirety of 2015. Much like “24k Magic,” this song was full of goofy, easily singable hooks and ’80s-inspired flourishes, reminding everyone that Mars and his Hooligans can put on a show like no one else can.
Now, while reminiscing on the amazing time I had at the MGM, I’m positive that Bruno Mars will go down in history. Don’t believe me? Just watch.