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(photo by Daniel Ramos; feet by B, Mars)


Sydney Football Stadium, October 14

PETER V'LANDYS WAS WORRIED was worried attention might be drawn from his million-dollar gallops by a mere two-legged star when these concerts were announced. Here’s a suggestion: BYO Bruno.

As a sign of the pent-up excitement, or maybe the impending sugar crash, in the audience at ground level, while we waited for the show to start a Bruno Mars impersonator walking through the crowd induced the kind of hysteria you only get at a Mark Latham speech or Everest winners’ cheque clearing ceremony. Imagine that at Royal Randwick. You’re welcome Pete.

As for the real thing, he goes alright too.

From curly-fro-and-bandana, which never seemed to wear any sweat despite the exertions, down to stacked snowy white sneakers, which turned, slid, glided and twisted, Mars was not to be eclipsed.

Not by a brass section which danced as well as it blasted and sang even better. Not by a pyrotechnic set up which regularly set off explosions that probably doubled as fruit bat terrors at the distant Botanic Gardens. Not even by super fly bass player Jamareo Artis, who could rifle through butt-shaking riffs without missing a step in his all-stops dance moves.

So he knew an early smack of 24K Magic (not the prizemoney for race #4 at Randwick but some bling metaphor talking) would lift off from the base of Moonshine. He could always rescue Billionaire, a song that feels like Sting’s Englishman In New York that’s wearing too much instrumental clothing, by stepping into a dub section that slowed down and opened up.

(photo by Daniel Ramos; jacket not by Lowes)

And he was comfortable offering up a mid-show medley of songs he’s written for/with others, solo at the piano, because even if you had some issue with CeeLo Green’s Fuck You or Silk Sonic’s Leave The Door Open (lord knows why you would though) he was going to bring it home to his/your/everyone’s mama with a full version of his silk jacket tearjerker, When I Was Your Man (which, tbh, does go on a bit).

Whether offering Finesse, some R&B from the Bobby Brown school (the no drugs or DV class), Treasure, more your Earth Wind & Fire exuberant funk, or a James Brown & The Flames-style, brassed up, funked down, ankle-snapping, balloon-popping number, Mars had our number.

Ok, yes, Perm tries to go heavy on the sex only to find old mate Bruno is too much the sweet kid brother you chase around the yard to really be convincingly sexy (though some people are who aren’t straight older males tell me otherwise). Grenade is a very ordinary half rock/half R&B song that’s neither fish nor fowl and never goes off. And the two solo instrumental sections by his pianist and guitarist – the latter taking us to Anthony Newley’s Pure Imagination. Yes, from Willy Wonka, Yes, I’m serious – were almost literally placeholders while Mars refreshed off-stage.

But he could smoothly segue from Versace On The Floor, the (phone) torch ballad Michael Jackson might have done, into How Deep Is Your Love, for some semi-local colour, to kick up perfectly into Marry You, an irresistible song made for every party band to attempt (and fail to match) the deceptive easy slickness.

And then blow past any of that with Locked Out of Heaven, an in-your-face and up-your-shirt mood lifter that might make a dead man come to life and crack his hip dancing. Especially if he tried to match any of Mars’ moves or sound. Or even worse, his look.

I'm hardly the first to note that the line from the inevitable encore, Uptown Funk, “Gotta kiss myself I’m so pretty”, is both amusingly self-parodying and annoyingly true.

Hmm, maybe BYO Bruno would be asking too much, a musical peak too far even for the man who effectively runs NSW without needing election. Or maybe that’s just the challenge PVL needs.

A version of this review was originally published in the Sydney Morning Herald.


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