Precision, musicianship anchor Bruno Mars show in Boston
G. Valentino Ball | 7/11/2013, 9:02 a.m.
In the minds of cynical critics, pop artists can get a bad rap as the manufactured puppets of the music business. But at the TD Banknorth Garden last month Bruno Mars showed during the third date on his Moonshine Jungle Tour that even in a world of catchy loves songs, a virtuoso can exist. In fact he might be the greatest puppet master of all.
As a young child in Hawaii, Mars was the featured performer in his family’s variety act on the island’s resorts — even for a time at age 4 being an Elvis impersonator. During those shows he was exposed to the hits of every genre and diverse crowds from around the world. It was as if he were groomed from birth to reach his current status. And during his 75-minute set he displayed a lifetime of pop music knowledge.
Mars’ albums hopscotch genres all under the name of pop music and his shows are much the same. The flashing lights of electronic dance music, the matching suits of Motown era, the choreography of big bands like Earth, Wind & Fire and Kool & The Gang and the pyro of arena rock were all pulled out by Mars.
Unlike the beautiful chaos that can sometimes be a rock or hip hop show, Mars’ performance was a display in artistic precision. With a nod to his resort singing past and the variety shows of the ‘70s, Mars played the cool host as he pulled hit after hit from his two albums: 2010’s “Doo-Wops & Hooligans” and his latest effort “Unorthodox Jukebox.”
Not one moment on the multi-leveled mirrored stage, that mimicked the ‘80s inspired set of his music video “Treasure,” seemed accidental as Mars fell into choreographed lockstep with his eight-piece band and deftly moving from song to song.
While at some points the pyro and light show tipped the scale towards excessive – at one point the Garden felt like the inside of a disco ball – it was all a part of the greater good of entertainment.
The dexterity with which Mars performs is almost unnervingly good. And it would be easy to hate him if he wasn’t actually talented. His tenor was flawless and when he let loose with a guitar solo he displayed true musicianship. Seeing Mars live is an experience to remember.