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Concert Reviews:
Bruno Mars delivers a knockout at The Palace

@graffonmusic, Facebook.com/Gary Graff on Music

Posted: Friday, July 12, 2013

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AUBURN HILLS -- Shortly before Bruno Mars took the stage Thursday night, July 11, at The Palace, video screen emcee Napeson Hyman III advised fans to "prepare your mind" for the multi-platinum pop star.

Their bodies were what really needed to be ready, however.

Mars and his eight-piece band kept the nearly sold-out Palace crowd up on its feet and dancing for the bulk of the 90-minute Moonshine Jungle Tour show, a smartly executed, enormously entertaining, genre-hopping trip that both incorporated and deflated the typical conventions of pop extravaganza. Mars, looking (and even acting) alarmingly like Michael Jackson circa "Off The Wall," was every bit the star of the show, but he kept the music on equal footing with crack performances of songs from both his albums as well as a selection of appropriate covers.

The key was that for all the pomp -- pyrotechnics, confetti, prepared footage on a massive rear-stage video screen and exuberant gang choreography -- Mars and company were genially self-deprecating, enjoying the scale of the production without taking it too seriously. It was polished, but not to the point where it was more shine than substance. The guy -- exchanging his red Dolce & Gabbana suit for a more modest short-sleeve gold lame print -- didn't even change outfits once, in fact, which probably violates some cardinal rule of pop mega-stardom.

And as he wooed a specific female fan during "If I Knew," Mars playfully pointed to himself on the video screen by way of introduction, his wide grin letting everybody know that he knew exactly how silly the whole schtick was.

There was no trifling with the music, however, as Mars and the band -- including Detroit guitarist Phredley Brown and a three-piece horn section -- powered through the 16 songs with tight ensemble chemistry, from the majestic pop of "Moonshine" to the dramatic build of "Gorilla" and hitting rock ("Natalie," "Runaway Baby"), reggae ("Show Me," funk ("Treasure") and gospel-flavored doo-wop ("If I Knew") in between. Mars, who played guitar on several songs and drums at the start of the encore, segued Barrett Strong's Motown hit "Money (That's What I Want)" into Travie McCoy's "Billionaire" (which Mars sang on in 2010) also covered Ginuwine's "Pony" and B.o.B.'s "Nothin' On You."

An emotive "When I Was Your Man," meanwhile, stripped things down to just Mars and a couple of keyboards, while "Grenade" and "Locked Out of Heaven" were both arranged as a powerhouse opuses filled with dynamic ebbs and flows. It was certainly a treat for the body -- and for the mind -- but fans' ears were the greatest beneficiary of this night's Mars landing.

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