“I've lived in L.A. over 10 years and I've never been to the Hollywood Bowl,” Bruno Mars told the crowd on Saturday night. “It ain't a picnic tonight and I want to see all you dancing!”
During the first performance of a two-night stand on Saturday, Mars demonstrated why he's come to dominate the pop landscape. Mixing slick dance moves with tight arrangements, the singer used the skills he famously learned as an Elvis impersonator to work the crowd. For the bulk of his 90 minute set, he had most everyone shaking their hips.
Mars showcased his underrated musical prowess on top of his carefully choreographed moves. For a good portion of the night the 28-year-old performer played guitar, a tribute to his formative days in Los Angeles bouncing around the bar scene. (As he told the crowd, he used to play at spots like Molly Malone's on Fairfax.) Before long, he launched into a medley that included Led Zeppelin's “Whole Lotta Love,” The Outfield's “Your Love,” and Bell Biv Devoe's “Poison.” It was strikingly similar to the famous SNL skit where Mars was a Pandora intern who had to personally sign a bunch of random songs to keep the Internet radio provider afloat.
Even when he was chastising girls to put down their “fucking Twitter and Instagram,” Mars maintained his focus, and was clearly having fun on stage. Truth be told, there are worse things than looking out onto an audience and seeing a sea of camera phones.
Mars' Super Bowl halftime show this year help propel his fame into a different stratosphere and raised the stakes; his Moonshine Jungle tour is quickly coming up on a year. Between the background fire that arose during “Grenade” and the multiple fireworks displays – including a monster finish for set closer “Gorilla” – the singer rose to the occasion.
Before the close, Mars brought out opener Pharrell Williams, who yes, brought his hat too, for a version of N.E.R.D.'s 2002 song, “Rock Star.” Calling him the “best superproducer of our time,” Mars briefly yielded the spotlight.
As twilight loomed, Pharrell looked out at a nearly full venue, and moved briskly through a collection of his hits as a producer, singer and solo musician. Like his acclaimed set at Coachella, he wasn't alone; the crowd shrieked when new mom Gwen Stefani popped in for a rendition of “Hollaback Girl.” (This after he introduced her as “the queen of awesome.”)
In the 18 months since Unorthdox Jukebox was released, Mars has confidently dealt with the pressures that come with becoming an international pop star. We say more power to him.
Random Notebook Dump: There was a lot of swag on sale, but not a single replica of either singer's hat!
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