Bruno Mars – Times Union Center (Albany, NY), 7.20.14

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Everyone loves Bruno Mars.

I first noticed this phenomenon when Mars did the halftime show at the Super Bowl this year. Normally, I am the only one in my circle that I watch football with that cares anything about the halftime show; the boys have been generally interested in Madonna, Beyoncé and the parade of classic rock stars that have done the show since the wardrobe malfunction heard round the world. Since my team is never in the Super Bowl (or the playoffs….or has a winning season…sigh), I usually root for two things: a good game and an interesting halftime performance. I can’t say that this year started out any different, with the boys generally indifferent to the fact that Bruno Mars would be the headliner. But after Mars’ pretty stellar and enthusiastic performance, even they begrudgingly had to admit that he was pretty good. That’s high praise from that group. I’m sure the craptucular nature of the game primed them to be excited about something, but I give most of the credit to Mars putting on one hell of a show. I was fortunate to nab tickets to the Albany stop of his Moonshine Kingdom tour the morning after the Super Bowl and it became evident pretty quickly that a lot of other people had be won over by his performance by how quickly the tickets were selling. Normally I have a pre-sale for most shows, but battling it out with the common folk meant I grabbed the first decent tickets that I could find. I didn’t’ want to miss out.

The diversity of the crowd at the show last night added further credence to my belief that everyone loves Bruno Mars; while the crowd definitely skewed more female (evident from the extraordinarily long line at the restrooms), it was otherwise kind of all over the place – there were people of all ages and races walking around the building. I’m used to being either among the oldest or youngest people at shows, but the demographics of this concert were so out of whack that I think I was smack dab in the middle. It’s not often that you see gaggles of teenaged girls and groups of moms out at the same show. There was even one brave dad who had at least 10 eight year old boys with him. We saw them leave a little early and it looked like a summer camp; I hope someone bought that guy a beer.

What I was not anticipating was how much people love Bruno Mars; somehow, without me noticing, Mars has become a sex symbol. I haven’t heard so much screaming and carrying on since my days of going to boy band concerts; every gyration and pelvic thrust of his dancing was meet with deafening squeals of approval. I kind of thought this would die down as the night progressed, but it didn’t. The audience was as whipped into a frenzy during the last song of the encore as they were from the first note of his stepping out on stage. He had that crowd eating out of the palm of his hand from the jump and never lost them. Girls lost their minds at pretty much everything he did; I looked at my friend Kristin at one point and said that I was wholly unprepared for this sort of experience. It was overwhelming, but fun to watch.

To his credit, Mars earned pretty much every hoot and holler that he was greeted with – the dude is a performer. If you saw his halftime show, just imagine that going on for 90 minutes. There was of course him singing his litany of hits, but there was also explosions and graphics and dancing. My God, the dancing. I don’t know where that guy found the energy (well….I have some ideas), but he was boogieing up a storm on that stage, often do choreographed group moves with the members of his band. He was the consummate showman. The whole show had a very retro vibe to it – I thought it predominantly had something of a 70s feel to it, but I could also see elements of the 50s and 60s mixed in there too. Mars is influenced by all types of music and he employs parts of doo-wop, rock, soul, r&b and pop in his performance. These components have always been present in his songs, but they really become evident when seeing him live. I felt like I was watching the entire concert through an Instagram filter – and I mean that as a compliment. By drawing on so many different inspirations, he put on a show that was unique and unlike most concerts that I go to. An added bonus was that he and his band seemed to be having so much fun on stage; they were all smiling throughout the set list and seemed to really be enjoying themselves and each other’s company. It was definitely contagious – though I didn’t get up and dance much because my back is killing me, I had a big smile on my face throughout the show. I knew that I’d have fun at the show – the company alone insured that – but I had not quite anticipated that I would have that much fun. It really pulled me out of the doldrums where I’ve been wallowing the last couple of weeks; when a concert can put you in a great mood, that’s really saying something.

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Some other thoughts:

  • I was having so much fun at the show that a woman behind me spilled her beer on me and I didn’t even care. Normally I’d be pretty annoyed, but once I was sure that I didn’t get any on my new bag (priorities), I just shrugged and went back to watching Mars do his thing.
  • Kristin and I debated on the ride home about the attractiveness of Mars and the reaction that he caused in women. While I can see where other people find him desirable, I just cannot get over how short he is. He is taller than me, but not by much, and that just doesn’t work for me.
  • Speaking of his height…..this gives me another opportunity to post the photo of him and Taylor Swift, which never fails to crack me up:

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  • Opening act Aloe Blacc did a good job of warming up the crowd. I didn’t think I knew him, but it turns out that he has two songs that have been on the radio a lot. So it was a pleasant surprise that I recognized some of his music. His only flaw was that he kept mispronouncing Albany (he said it like it is spelled Al-bany rather than how it is pronounced: All-bany). I didn’t necessarily care that he said it wring, but he KEPT referring to the city. If you are going to do that, make sure you know how to say it before going out on stage.
  • Further proof that everyone loves Bruno Mars – even the dads who were at the concert chaperoning their children got up to dance and were singing along.
  • I do wonder if parents were prepared for the sexuality associated with Mars’ performance. It wasn’t tasteless, but there was definitely some bumping and grinding, as well as some song lyrics, that may have caused unexpected uncomfortable conversations on the ride home. Plus, as a former 11 year old girl, I can’t think of anything more horrifying to even the most sophisticated tween than watching part of that performance sitting next to your dad.
  • I was already on board with this concert, but when Mars went into a medley of Ginuwine’s “Pony” and R. Kelly’s “Ignition,” he completely won me over.
  • Not only can Mars sing and dance, but he also played both the drums and the guitar. He’s got mad skillz, yo.
  • Fair warning – if you go to see the show, there are multiple instances of loud explosions that sound a little like gunfire. This made me laugh, since though most of the suburbanites in the audience were unaware, the venue is only a few blocks from some questionable neighborhoods. So if you timed it right, you could probably shoot someone at a Bruno Mars show and get away with it. Not that I’m encouraging that.

The time absolutely flew by during the concert and before you knew it, it was time to go home. I was actually disappointed that it was over, despite the fact that I had to be to work early in the morning and I was cutting into my precious sleep. If he had done three encores, I would have been more than happy to stay there until midnight. Bruno Mars and company really know how to put on a show and everyone seemed to be in a great mood as we filed out of the venue. Really, other than the beer being spilled and the crazy long lines for the bathroom (which I never got to use), I have no complaints. It was a thoroughly entertaining show and I’m now a bigger Bruno Mars fan than I was going into the concert. This is the time of year when I start to get a little tired and jaded about all the concerts I go to – fatigue starts to set in and I regret overextending myself. But seeing Bruno Mars had the opposite effect and totally invigorated me. If he comes to your town and you can get tickets, you should absolutely go. You’ll be a happier person.

 Bruno Mars is out on tour through September; check for dates here.

 

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