Bruno Mars 24 Karat Tour At Madison Square, Saturday, September 23rd, 2017, Reviewed
If you had a Volvo that started every time you put the key in the ignition, you wouldn’t complain that the car lacked personality, or a PC that never freezes or picks up virus from downloading rap mixtapes, you wouldn’t kick. So you have Bruno Mars in 2017, performing in the same way with a different setlist true (seven songs from 24 Karat) but with a similar aesthetic for seven years straight, why kick? So it is all an incredible simulation of passion and pop dreams, so what? At Madison Square Garden last night, nobody in the audience seemed too fussed that even by the processed and pasteurized world of 2017 Hot 100, Bruno Mars could pretty much have sent a video and touched his audience precisely the same way. They were still touched, or at least moved. Dua Lipa, who was awful at Governors Ball earlier this year, and who is pretty much an exercise in corporate music product placement, opening for both Coldplay, and now Bruno, is EDM pop at its most generic, though the woman is a little knock out with the most impressive eyebrows on earth; she was better at MSG and still young so we will see.
Tell me what is wrong with this paragraph: “My problem with “When I Was Your Man” has been the generic nature of the lyric but at MSG: “Bruno claims it as the hardest song he has ever written and the show stopping ballad has the audience enthralled, much better than on record it is all a tense, rhythm based ballad with a stop start motion and a devastating pay off. “Just The Way You Are” was a singalong of gigantic proportions, a terrific send off before the encore. Bruno is charming and gentle, a sexy but soft persona, with the broadest of smiles and he hands the song to his audience and they take it on and run with it.” Anyone? I switched Barclay Center to MSG and lifted it from my 2013 review of his previous tour. The songs are different, and he has “Uptown Funk” for an over the top final song of the night, but he is precisely the same, leading his eight piece rock funk outfit plus synths ahoy through 90 minutes of crowd pleasing funk pop with one foot in James Brown’s catalog, and one in neo-funk modern age.
He leads his men, all men (and what was it with that time he got arrested for hanging out in a men’s room? Sure, cocaine, we got that, but why would he be in the men’s room for a long time due to cocaine? No, wait, I’m keen to guess), while dressed in matching baseball jerseys and shorts, he looks so young and innocent you expect the ghost of Michael Jackson to suddenly appear with Jesus Juice in one hand and a secret cache of porn in the other. The dancing was all money, members of the band follow Bruno from one side of the somewhat simple stage to the other, moving in time while still playing horns and guitars. Bruno sang very well always, he was like Laurence Olivier playing Hamlet in the middle of a three year run at the Old Vic, he managed to do what he did every single night and do it to perfection. Though there are a couple of dogs, the worst was “Calling All My Lovelies” with a spoken word joke part wherein he pretends to celll his girl (“Something was telling me to call you, I think it was God, so if you love Jesus call me back” -OK, that was funny) followed by “Chunky” (work on your patter, man) there were enough dingers to make up for em. “That’s What I Like” was the third of the trio and he was back on track. “Grenade,” his best song ever “Marry Me,” same ol’ singalong “Just The Way You Are”. All very obvious lyrically, but musically it is the finest dance pop around.
Bruno’s problem isn’t his song, it’s his entire lack of authenticity: if you can’t fake it, you shouldn’t do it. Mars is all canned comments, he never breaks through to any sort of shared reality and instead he seems to speak in cliche after cliche, in New York City he is exactly as thrilled as he was at the Super Bowl and will be in Fresno: next month: it’s McDonalds as performance art, everything is precise and exact and what it is and it is all the same. And why shouldn’t it be? Who throws away a car that has never stalled in its life?