In a few days before Peter Gene Hernandez, aka Bruno Mars, brings some non-football action to the Sydney Football Stadium (which has an unnecessary corporate name, but you know what I’m talking about, right?). That will be a week exactly after he turned 37.
Anticipating perfect weather for an outdoor show in a city which reached a new record rainfall almost a full three months before the end of the year, Wind Back Wednesday swallows its scepticism, its lack of appropriate headwear, and its total inability to do anything the Hawaiian can, and returns to an earlier version of showtime at Hernandez Hideaway, aka the indoor arena at Homebush.
Qantas Credit Union Arena, March 8, 2014
AT FIRST, IT’S HARD TO TELL whether it is massive insecurity or overweening arrogance.
A man not short of his own hits liberally sprinkles his show with interpolations and samples and sometimes full covers from four or five decades of pop/soul/R&B songs. Not obscurities for the chin-strokers, nor safe favourites pulled in late in the show when some chart topping acts’ setlists are running low on quality/energy either.
Add to that dance moves which make reference to (or, if you prefer, copy) a couple of generations of definitive movers, and a sound which expertly taps into each decade since the 1950s - from doo wop to dancehall – and you can ask, what’s he up to? Are we supposed to be impressed?
What he’s up to is slipping into full-service entertainment mode and, yes, we are impressed.
(Bruno Mars warming up for Sydney Football Stadium at a minor football match)
If Treasure, with its late ‘70s disco blend of Earth Wind And Fire and the Jacksons, seems an easy get, it’s only because the seams don’t show and the style holds firm.
If dropping in Ginuwine’s Pony, R. Kelly’s Ignition and Aloe Blacc’s I Need A Dollar surprises, keep in mind he links them directly with Barrett Strong’s Money (That’s What I Want) and Toots & the Maytal’s Bam Bam, or his own moments of reggae sunshine (Show Me) and Caribbean-flecked pop (I Wanna Be A Billionaire).
That’s less "I’m as good as them” as "this is just a part of something bigger". More to the point, Mars and band sell it like they built it.
Everyone in the frontline – brass/bass/guitar - moves, sings, works the stage from corner to corner and takes ownership of capturing this room. The good feelings of mid show peak, Marry You and inevitable closer Locked Out Of Heaven are down to a sustained and joint success.
It’s not just that they can do James Brown and the Famous Flames coordinated dance steps and Michael Jackson moonwalks as easily as they handle a soapy ballad like When I Was Your Man, but that these individuals, rather than pyrotechnic and on-screen magic, are the focus of the show.
Note too that Mars who can sing, dance, play and write with appallingly good quality (and, as a song sung in the wrong key for a verse proved, do it genuinely live too), doesn’t require all eyes be on him all the time - a rarity in pop of any age.
Yeah, maybe Mars hasn’t quite worked out a signature of his own and there’s a touch of box-ticking about the show’s many elements, but you can’t deny the entertainment, the fun.