Bruno Mars has it figured out, has it down pat. Three albums and more than 10 years into a music career, Mars has elevated himself into the stratosphere of pop stardom.
All three of his albums have gone at least platinum, selling about 7 million copies combined in the U.S. And, more important, he has become a bona fide arena artist, selling out venues like the Sprint Center, which he did Wednesday night.
And for good reason: Mars has become a marquee entertainer, one who knows that the best shows are about more than just good songs; they are about talented entertainers delivering spectacle, energy and flash.
The set list comprised only 16 songs, but the show lasted nearly two hours and bristled and percolated with energy and dazzling visuals: flashpots, fireworks, lasers, lights, gold confetti and nonstop dancing.
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Before a crowd of about 16,000, he played nearly all of “24K Magic,” the album he released in November, plus about a half-dozen of his best-known songs, most of which have inhabited the Billboard Top 10 charts.
Mars’ music draws from a wide array of influences. Its building blocks are taproot soul, funk and R&B, all plumbed from several eras. James Brown, Prince, Michael Jackson, the Time — especially the Time — are obvious touchstones.
But other inspirations emerge, from ’90s swingbeat to ’70s soul. The slow jam “That’s What I Like” insinuated kinship to Kansas City’s legendary Bloodstone.
Mars was joined on stage by his eight-piece band, the Hooligans, a word emblazoned across the front of everyone’s baseball jersey. His band included a three-piece horn section plus bass, keyboards, drums and vocalist Philip Lawrence, who, along with the horn section, joined Mars in innumerable well-choreographed dance routines. Of all the many elements of this brash and manic spectacle, the dancing was a premier highlight.
If there was an element of disappointment it was the paucity of guitar play from Mars, who hasn’t breached Prince’s domain but who is within the same area code. He flashed some of that during “Grenade,” one of his most popular rock songs.
Other highlights: the ballad “When I Was Your Man,” performed solo; “Perm,” during which Mars mildly scolded some fans (“You can’t dance and take photos at the same time”); and “Runaway Baby,” a rollicking R&B/soul jam with an Earth Wind & Fire vibe.
The first set ended with “Just the Way You Are,” an inspirational, chin-up “We Are the World” ballad about being comfortable with your looks. The sing-along to that was the loudest (and most earnest) of the night.
He closed with two favorites: “Just Out of Heaven,” a blockbuster single from 2012; then “Uptown Funk,” collaboration with Mark Ronson. That one’s a no-nonsense deep-funk dance anthem, one that provoked a few of the Kansas City police officers in the place to gently bob along to its irresistible groove.
Bruno Mars has it figured out: Write catchy songs, then charm and entertain those who pay to see you. And they will come back for more.
Finesse; 24K Magic; Treasure; Perm; Calling All My Lovelies; Chunky; That’s What I Like; Straight Up and Down; Versace on the Floor; Marry You; Runaway Baby; When I Was Your Man; Grenade; Just the Way You Are. Encore: Locked Out of Heaven; Uptown Funk.