The world seems to agree on Bruno Mars.
Given all the bickering over every topic imaginable these days, it's a rare pleasure to stand in a sold out arena with music fans of all ages, races and genders and get goofy for a couple of hours. In Dallas Friday night, Bruno Mars brought his inescapable hits and an elaborate, inventive stage-lighting presentation to the American Airlines Center for what will easily go down as one of the most joyful musical nights in North Texas for 2017.
Though he isn't necessarily the most original artist excelling today, Mars is as charismatic and addicting as they come. In the span of a three minute pop ditty he was at once sweet, sexy, edgy and wholesome. His boyish smile betrayed the carnal yearning of the many rapid-fire pelvic thrusts he offered over the course of his engaging two-hour set. He's Purple Rain Prince and Thriller Michael Jackson bathed in gold flakes and champagne. He's the kind of guy you can bring home to meet the parents, yet be the bad boy they warned you to steer clear of.
Over the past few years, only a small handful of other popsters have occupied the same elite air Mars has in terms of sheer commercial success. With Billboard chart stats rivaling Elvis Presley's, Mars has become an all-ages pop-icon historically quick. And in terms of general reach across the social spectrum, it's hard to imagine anyone having a greater wingspan right now than Mars. Taylor Swift, Beyonce and Adele may draw (slightly) bigger crowds, but its highly doubtful the demographical array is there for them the way it is with a Mars concert crowd.
Much of his appeal is in the throwback manner his songs are presented. And in concert, he carries an old-soul ethos from beginning to end. A massive pop tour such as his could have an army of background dancers to punch up the production, and Lord knows, his music could carry such weight, but not a single dancer could be found here. That's true as long as you don't count his well-choreographed band members, who had plenty of moves of their own to speak of. Leaning more Motown than VMA's, Mars and his band effortlessly glided along with frivolity and slide-stepping moves that enhanced each number and never threatened to steal the thunder.
Sticking to the setlist he has employed through most of the 24K tour so far, the biggest hits of his still-small catalog were present. "24K Magic" and "That's What I Like" were crystal clear while "Chunky," a loving ode to "thick girls," as he puts it, made the diverse crowd shake their rumps regardless of size and shape. Maybe no other song he sings offers a better example of Mars' ability to be a little bit of everything all at once than "Gorilla," which he sang towards the end of his regular set.
If we're all being honest and being mature, here, "Gorilla" is, rather plainly, a song that makes no bones about what it is really about. Liquor, drugs and sex aren't necessarily Radio Disney topics, but he delivers it in a way that that the elderly, the grade schooler and everyone in between is happy dancing to (which indeed was the case in my immediate surroundings).
With colorful lasers shooting out into the arena from behind him, Mars offered "Locked Out of Heaven" and his global smash collab with Mark Ronson "Uptown Funk" to end the night in triumphant, smile-plastering fashion. But one major thing that wasn't accounted for was any sort of commentary of any kind from Mars. In recent months at the same venue, Roger Waters, Kendrick Lamar and Green Day mixed their music with bold social and political messages to varying degrees, and did so in an artful, meaningful way. But that was not on the agenda here, for better or worse, depending on your view. I say it was for the better.
It's absolutely worth celebrating anything that can bring over 15,000 people from so many backgrounds together to actually agree on the same thing.
On Friday night, that one thing was Bruno Mars.