PopBytes was invited to attend a special intimate performance by Bruno Mars at the iHeartRadio Theater earlier in December. I walked into the theater on the lower west side of Manhattan as a casual listener of Bruno. Little did I know I would leave a Bruno Mars fan. The small venue was filled with people of all ages. Industry-types, gays, and moms with their ten-year-old daughters. I had no idea that his fans would cross generations and gender either. Before he took the stage, Z100 kept playing the same few songs over and over again. Imagine Dragons and The Lumineers. I felt as if I don’t hear those songs on the air nearly as often as I heard them that night. It’s a special evening because Bruno is playing this show on the same day his new record Unorthodox Jukebox is released on Atlantic Records.
Bruno Mars takes the stage with a hat and sunglasses on. He’s charming the shirts and bras off of all the women in the room. He opens with his new single “Locked Out of Heaven” and I’m amazed. I’ve heard this song countless times on the radio but I always chose to ignore it. It was always a song that you would in the background while you were having a conversation with someone in your car. Watching it being performed by him and seven other people on stage was a different story. There are brass instruments everywhere; the trombones and saxophones fill the room with such energy. There are also back-up singers and choreography to go along with every song.
“So your sex takes me to paradise. Yeah your sex takes me to paradise,” Bruno sings. Are those really the lyrics? Are these moms and daughters really singing along to this song? Incredible. Let’s not forget to mention how much this song sounds like The Police. The retro feel and sound of the song is unlike anything else on pop radio. The song ends and girls are screaming his name and he’s being very playful with them. He introduces his band as his “team” and tells the audience to put away their “camera phones” and enjoy the show.
He plays two new songs. One song is called “Treasure” and the other song sounds like reggae infused with a pop hook. I remember him singing about not letting a buzz go to waste. It seems this second record is about dealing with life after having a successful first album. To wipe up all of the sex and alcohol he’s selling, he performs “Marry You” with hopes to clean up his image a little bit. It seems to work because everyone seems to be swooning. But then his next song gets to the crux of it all. “All you young wild girls, you make a mess of me. Yeah, you young wild girls, you’ll be the death of me,” he sings. It’s the women who complicate his heart. It’s the women he is writing about in these songs.
Since Christmas was only two weeks away, Bruno decides to sing a Christmas song. He chooses “White Christmas” and it sounds great. He sings the soprano part to his entourage’s bass and tenors. The last two songs he performs are his two biggest hits. “Grenade” and “Just The Way You Are.” I can’t hear the song “Grenade” without thinking about MTV’s Jersey Shore. It wasn’t Bruno’s intention to release a song at the same time as Jersey Shore‘s popularity was dominating televisions across the country. But according to Urban Dictionary a grenade is the “solitary ugly girl always found with a group of hotties.” While Bruno’s singing about his undying affections for a girl, all I can ever think about is The Situation or Pauly D making out with a grenade.
The show is over and everyone starts to clear out of the iHeartRadio Theater. I make way out of the building and start walking to Bowery Ballroom where Solange is playing a show. I put headphones on. I haven’t even pushed play on my iPod yet and all I can hear is the guitar riff in “Locked Out of Heaven.” That song is so damn catchy! It’s been a few weeks since Bruno’s show and I must confess that he won me over that night in December. “Locked Out of Heaven” is no longer that song that is on in the background, it has become the song I turn up when it comes on the radio.
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