What a long way Bruno Mars has come in the last 8 months since he's been to Arizona last. Back then, his single "Grenade" was just catching on, and he packed a sold-out Martini Ranch. Now, he's got a third solo single under his belt, "The Lazy Song," which helped propel him to bigger things this time around. At the much bigger Comerica Theatre, there was a bigger band (including a three-man horn section), a bigger stage set-up (a massive video display background) and a few more thousand people singing along to his songs.
Other than the logistics, the set list, singing and banter were pretty much the same. Considering this was a whole new tour, the Hooligans in Wonderland Tour with Janelle Monae, it would have been nice to see something more than what audiences basically got last time. While it was neat to see the big video screen capture the band's every move (and a lot of the audience members throughout the show), and while the graphics and videos interspersed throughout the show were a nice touch, the production value could have been a little higher. It would have been neat to see more original videos starring Mars made just for the show. He could have finally gotten behind a piano, an instrument he plays so deftly. Even an explosion of confetti at the end would have been cool.
But no, Mars kept things simple and sweet. If there's one strength Mars has as a performer, it's consistency. His vocals were top-notch and clear, unlike the loud, mostly incomprehensible set for Monae (who, for the record, packed an energetic punch as a performer, running around the stage and through the audience and writhing around on the floor.) Mars' voice was, and should be, the star of the show, since his range is amazing. He sounds even better live than on his recordings, and his live musical talent was a testament to why he led this year's Grammy Awards in nominations.
He did play a little longer than last time, for about an hour and 15 minutes, and it was great he played every single song off his debut solo album, Doo-Wops & Hooligans. He also once again played the first song he says he ever wrote, "Top of the World," as well as Barrett Strong's "Money (That's What I Want)." Unfortunately, the set was just way too predictable if you've seen Mars perform already.
With this big of a stage and more opportunity to take his time doing what he wanted, Mars should have showed off his phenomenal drumming skills. He could have talked a little more about what the songs meant to him -- instead, his in-between song talking was limited to ribbing his Smeezingtons collaborator and back-up singer Phil Lawrence and commenting about how hot it was outside. And, like every straight male performer who comes through Phoenix during almost-summertime, he had to mention how hot the ladies of the Valley are.
Not that the audience seemed to care the material was recycled. The fans in attendance, mostly young women, ate every word up, screaming and cheering Mars on throughout the show and singing on cue whenever he asked them to.
Maybe it will take a brand-new album for Mars to shake things up a little bit. He's definitely got this routine down, but it'll be nice to see him go in a different direction, hopefully next time around.
Personal Bias: I have a huge crush on Mars and really enjoyed his debut album.
The Crowd: Mostly young women, with a sprinkling of guys throughout.
Overheard in the crowd: "I really liked the harmonies," my pal said after Mars and his crew sang a cover of The Schoolboys' "Please Say You Want Me".
Random Notebook Dump: I do think Monae has vocal talent, but I felt like her huge band overpowered her vocals and made the set sort of messy, which was a shame.
The Other Side
Top of the World
Money (That's What I Want) (Barrett Strong cover)
Our First Time Runaway
Please Say You Want Me (The Schoolboys cover)
The Lazy Song
Count on Me
Liquor Store Blues
Nothin' on You
Just the Way You Are
Somewhere in Brooklyn (encore) Talking to the Moon (encore)