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Concert Reviews:
Bruno Mars is 24kt golden at first of two Little Caesars concerts

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Wednesday, September 19, 2018

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DETROIT -- Bruno Mars had a tall act to follow on Saturday night, Sept. 15, at Little Caesars Arena.

Last time he was in town -- Aug. 12, 2017 at the Palace of Auburn Hills -- Mars made headlines with a $1 million donation to relief efforts for the ongoing Flint water crisis. That didn't entirely eclipse the dazzling show he and his seven-member Hooligans band had just put on, but it certainly shifted the attention a bit.

On Saturday, however, the spotlight was fully fixed on Mars and his music -- and another buoyant party of a performance, the first of two at Little Caesars, that re-staked his claim as one of if not the best live act on the road right now.

Though the return stop on Mars' XXIVK Magic World Tour was fundamentally the same, it was just as potent as he and the Hooligans grooved through a nimbly choreographed 13 songs, focusing heavily 2016's double-platinum, unapologetically throwback "24K Magic" album. With his visual and stylistic references to forebears such as James Brown, Prince (including a bit of "Purple Rain" during Mars' guitar solo in "Marry You") and especially Michael Jackson, Mars simply knows how to put all the pieces together for a tasteful, arena-sized spectacle; Even the special effects -- moving parts of the brightly lit cubist stage, pyrotechnics and lasers -- never got in the way of the organic exuberance Mars and company put forth.

Any miscues were few. The emotive, elongated "When I Was Your Man" taxed Mars' audibly road-weary voice, while John Fossit's subsequent piano solo meandered a bit too long. But the rest of the 90-minute show, on either side, more than compensated for that as Mars and the Hooligans (including Lathrup Village-raised Phredley Brown on guitar) just killed the likes of "Finesse," "24K Magic," "Treasure," "Chunky" and more. Though rooted in a blend of vintage 70s and 90s R&B the range was wide as well, with plenty of rock touches ("Calling All My Lovelies" and "Runaway Baby") and choreography that, while clearly tight, still felt like a bunch of guys mugging for each other on a street corner.

Nowhere was the latter better than in "Perm," when Mars and the band bolstered the usual left side/right side noise "competition" by bouncing along the risers in a seated position to (deservedly) even greater response.

Mars finished strong with a mini greatest hits run of "Locked Out of Heaven," "Just the Way You Are" and an encore rendition of his Mark Ronson collaboration "Uptown Funk." Three appearances in 13 months from Mars in the metro area is certainly golden -- and more would certainly be welcome.

R&B veteran "Uncle" Charlie Wilson, meanwhile, gave Mars a run for his money during his revelatory 45-minute opening slot -- moreso than originally announced support act Cardi B, out due to pregnancy, would have mustered. Among the architects of the old school Mars so capably updates, Wilson brought his own large ensemble -- 10 musicians and four dancers -- to Little Caesars for a high-spirited set that featured its own choreography, costume changes (including lighted jackets for a cover of Prince's "Baby I'm a Star") and "Party Train" material from his Gap Band days as well as his own hits ("Good Times (Everybody)," "Charlie, Last Name Wilson," "Chills") and a rendition of Snoop Dogg's "Beautiful."

Mars and Wilson perform again at 8 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 16, at Little Caesars Arena -- and anyone going is well-advised to be on time and dally on the concourse while Wilson is on stage. Call 313-471-7000 or visit 313Presents.com.

Web Site: www.313Presents.com

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