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Concert Reviews:
Bruno Mars makes triumphant return to the Palace

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Thursday, June 19, 2014

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AUBURN HILLS -- "We came back for more!" Bruno Mars told a near sell-capacity crowd Wednesday night, June 18, at the Palace of Auburn Hills. And rest assured that familiarity bred anything but contempt.

The Grammy Award-winning Mars and his eight Hooligans fired up the Palace last July, and he's only become hotter during the interim thanks to his Super Bowl halftime performance in February -- which clearly drew some folks to this year's show who may not have heard of Mars before. They certainly recognized where the Hawaiian native came from, though, as Mars and company (including Detroit-born musical director Phredley Brown) delivered the same kind of exuberant, cross-generational revue, deftly blending contemporary pop with old-school R&B, right down to Mars' Michael Jackson-style moves and loose, good-humored group choreography that would make James Brown's Famous Flames proud.

Mars' music, meanwhile, cut a wide stylistic swatch. The laser-lit opener ""Moonshine" swelled from smooth soul verses to epic pop choruses, while "Natalie's" kinetic bop was pure pop energy and "Treasure" offered vintage disco, complete with a mirror ball. Mars displayed his deep roots with a quick cover of Barrett Strong's Motown hit "Money (That's What I Want)," throwing in a Chuck Berry guitar break, and with the doo-wop of "Marry You," the reggae of Travie McCoy's "Billionaire" and the harder rock of "Runaway Baby," "Grenade" and the moody, dramatic show-closer "Gorilla."

The hits kept coming, too -- B.o.B.'s "Nothin' on You," "Just The Way You Are," "When I Was Your Man" and, of course, "Locked Out of Heaven," which Mars introduced with a brief drum solo. It was a feel-good night from start to finish -- the smile never left Mars' face, nor his fans -- and amidst the pyrotechnics and confetti it was clear that if the first time was the charm, the second time was just as exciting.

The Palace crowd also got a look at perhaps the next Bruno Mars in opener Aloe Blacc, another genre-mixing singer and songwriter whose brand of soul also ties in other influences. The dapper artist's hits -- "The Man" and the socially conscious "Wake Me Up" -- have put him on the map, but his 45-minute set on Wednesday showed there's more where they came from, particularly in songs such as "Love is the Answer," "You Make Me Smile," "Soldier in the City" and "I Need a Dollar."

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