By Wayne Harada
Local boy Bruno Mars killed ‘em last night (Friday April 18) at the first of three Blaisdell Arena concerts. He sang, he danced, he kibitzed; it was a homecoming like no other, a native son who’s become the planet’s hottest popster, who still is local boy at heart.
What to expect, if you’re lucky enough to have scored tickets to tonight’s and Monday’s repeat concerts.?
Timetable: Don’t rush to be in your seats by the 8 p.m. curtain. At Friday’s show, Bruno’s dad Peter Hernandez Jr. and his doo-wop buddies were an unannounced add-on to the bill, a nice touch. The formal opening act was The Green. By the time Bruno and crew hit the stage, to tumultuous cheers and screeches, it was about 9:45 p.m. (there were two intermissions for two set-ups). Not to worry; Mars provided a solid 90 minutes of spit and polish artistry you’ll not easily forget.
Number of songs: About 16, including the expected “Just the Way You Are,” “Treasure,” and “Grenade.” There will be a false exit, but Mars and his eight musicians will return for two encores, “Locked Out of Heaven: and “Gorilla.”
Watch for laser beams and flashes: The show is ablaze in well-choreographed light shows, with lasers aplenty and some backscreen closesups of onstage action, plus LED videos on two oversized overhead screes. So there’ll be plenty to see, even if mountains of spectators are immediately in front of you.
Prepare for pyrotechnics and boomblasts: On a handful of numbers, there are unexpected blasts (booms, actually) that will jar the ears but punctuate the numbers’ endings. And towards the grand finale, there will be sparklers and fire gushes to create heat and scents of, say, a New Year’s Eve spectacle.
Fashion plate: For Friday’s show, Mars chose not his blues band suits with thin ties; instead, he was splendidly casual first in a short-sleeved striped shirt, worn with a brown leather vest, with black trousers; he displayed tats on both arms, his head shielded by a straw hat, a ring on a finger, several gold necklaces, and bracelet on his left wrist. Late in the show, when the band made a mass exit, he returned with the same hat but wore a printed/patterned casual shirt over the black pants.
Confessionals: He admitted, before singing “When I Was Your Man,” that it was “the hardest to write” and “the hardest to sing,” surely harboring a personal story about heartache and heartbreak, details of which he didn’t dilvulge. And this was the most emotionally demanding of all his songs, because he was backed only by a pair of electronic keyboards, minus the pulsating drums, the bold brass flourishes, the twangs of bass and guitar. And hmmm, But there tears his eyes during the course of the performance?
Promotionals: He melded “Money, It’s What I Want,” the old Motown hit, with “Billionaire,” his composition about his dream about making it on the cover of Fortune magazine one day, with a local twist that earned hurrahs from the crowd. Instead of Fortune, he said MidWeek; and in a verse later on, he sang about going to Zippy’s.
The Big Jig: Throughout the set, Mars did his trademark jig with four or five of his bandsmen, doing up close and personal choreographic twirls, much to the delight of the crowd. And often, he demonstrated his swivel hits with frenetic movements.
Strumming and drumming: Depending on the song, Mars occasionally played electric or acoustic guitar. And for his “Gorilla” nightcap, he manned the drums with a fierce style of his own.
Reviving Hit No. 1: For this Hawaii visit, Mars inserted the first of his signature tunes, popularized by B.O.B., on which he did a cameo/video, “Nothing on You.” It was the song that jumpstarted his transition from composer-producer to front-and-center singer-composer.
Sharing and caring: He invited his fans to sing along, notably on “Just the Way You Are,” and his earnesty and accessibility shined; he didn’t mind sharing the spotlight with the folks who’ve watched him from his Little Elvis days to the superstar he’s become.
Bring extra money or plastic: There are souvenir stuff you’re likely to bring home — two T-shirts from this “Moonlight Jungle” tour ($40 each), complete with the hometown playdates, plus posters, shorts, tank tops, a jacket, a bag and a souvenir program.
In summary: Likely will be the biggest and best concert event of this season — or any season. Mars is truly out of the world, and he makes it all seem so easy and effortless, but truly, there's a lot of method to his magic.