Bruno Mars & His Hooligans
Every single twist of Bruno Mars’ hips was greeted by whoops. And there was plenty of hip-shaking to be had Wednesday night at the Frank Erwin Center.
Mars appeared just after 9pm from behind a golden curtain, with jungle cackles erupting from the stage PA. Breaking into “Moonshine,” a track from his sophomore LP Unorthodox Jukebox, he introduced his charismatic backers, the Hooligans.
The Hooligans matched Mars dance step for dance step all night. The camaraderie between bandmates is undeniable. The show banter, while recycled, had the guys onstage in stitches as they constantly fought for one-upmanship. Each Hooligan took a turn flirting with a woman in the first row.
“Girl, you so fine I’d lick the bottom of your feet,” announced trombonist Kameron Whalum to jeers from his group.
All that charm and Jackson 5-like dance numbers too. Even this cynical feminist found it almost unbearably adorable. “Natalie” loosened up Mars even more.
“I think I saw an iPad out there?,” he laughed. “What’s that shit?”
Another hit from Unorthodox Jukebox, “Treasure” spilled a tribute to disco, though Mars frequently changed up his smooth R&B for merry island tunes. Occasionally, the Honolulu native broke it down on just his electric guitar, evoking a childhood in his family’s band.
Mars’ collaborations with MCs blended well in the set. “Nothin’ On You,” without B.o.B., and “Billionaire,” sans Travie McCoy, came off like hearing one end of a phone conversation, but Mars compensated by belting mini-medleys. “Billionaire” was prefaced by “Money (That’s What I Want).”
Even the men in audience were singing along with Mars’ “Just the Way You Are,” as were the moms and daughters in matching concert tees. A roaring first encore found Mars stepping in for drummer Eric Hernandez and wailing away on an extended intro to “Locked Out of Heaven.” “Gorilla,” a high energy song about “makin’ love like gorillas,” closed the show.
British songwriter-slash-enchantress Ellie Goulding, who began the evening with a short set, had an admittedly off night.
“I’m a bit shy tonight,” she said, squinting at the crowd. “I’m not usually this shy.”
Goulding’s “Starry Eyed,” from 2011 debut Lights, drew a reaction from the crowd, as did “Burn,” from last year’s Halcyon. The singer noted her lack of backup dancers, a marked difference between her set and Bruno Mars’.