(August 7, 2021). They were masked-up, vaccinated and ready to go! Seven lovely ladies, whose knowledge of Bruno Mars ranged from zero to Silk Sonic, accompanied me to see the pop/R&B superstar perform at the MGM Theater (National Harbor) just outside of DC on Friday night (August 6).
Undaunted by recent pandemic news, these seven ladies were determined to see their Bruno. They weren’t going to let the latest Covid wave and newly reinstated mask mandates prevent them from enjoying what would be for several their first live concert in years.
And enjoy it they did! From the first explosive bars of show-opener “24K Magic” – and I mean literally “explosive,” the pyrotechnics virtually jolted some of the women right out of their seats – the Fab Seven were up and boogieing head-to-toe like those “soul players” Bruno and his band the Hooligans were singing about.
There had been more than a few sighs of relief from my crew when the show began. Bruno and Co. were about 45 minutes late, prompting some worried members of the Fab Seven to wonder if he was even in the venue. I had assured them he was and that this was a typical superstar being fashionably late (while the crowd was still bustling about to find their seats). I was sharply rebuked with an assertion from one of the ladies that many of the superstars of “their day” always started on time.
I could think of a few names from their day who were notable exceptions, but I didn’t want to debate the point. Besides, I didn’t mind the playlist of classic ‘90s R&B/hip-hop tunes that kept my head boppin’ while we waited (see a sample list at the end of this article).
Back to the concert: “24K Magic” quickly segued into another top-five hit, “Finesse” (thankfully not the remix with Cardi B, given my dates for the night). The ladies – one in particular – were still groovin’ with all the energy of girls half their age while yours truly was busy taking copious notes on a pad of yellow stickies that one of them had given me (for the purpose of writing this article).
She later explained that she always kept “a lil something in her purse because she sometimes forgets things.” I was thankful that she did; the yellow stickies turned out to be a lifesaver for yours truly (who certainly wouldn’t have been able to recount this event without them).
The yellow stickies were made necessary by Bruno’s “no-phone” policy. All cell phones were required to be checked and locked in disabling pouches prior to entry, which meant there would be no picture evidence of any of these moments (or videos of Bruno’s antics) on the Internet.
Bruno jokingly made that policy the subject of his next song, a little ditty he created to capture the moment. As the music slowed from the first two uptempo numbers, the superstar trolled the audience by asking “do you know what makes tonight so special?” before playfully (but still very soulfully) singing “I took your phones awaaay, I took your phones awaaay” and capping it with “leave them phones in the mutha-f*cking pouch!”
Of course, the audience roared with laughter and suddenly the annoying phone policy became somewhat tolerable (for all of those who weren’t writing on yellow stickies, that is). But when one of my guests – I won’t say who – quipped, “I’ve never heard that song before,” I knew we were gonna be in for a long, wild ride.
Bruno followed the trolling cell phone interlude with more hits and some deeper tracks. There was “Treasure,” “Perm,” “Calling All My Lovelies” and “Chunky.”
They were followed by the first of his seven No. 1 songs played on this night, the funky throwback smash “That’s What I Like” – one of this blogger’s faves. Then came another Cardi B duet – sans the rapper – with “Please Me.”
The first of several spotlight solos by his outstanding band members came afterwards – first the sax player (Dwayne Duggar), then the keyboardist (John Fossit), followed by the drummer (Eric Hernandez). One of the Fab Seven took special notice of his band’s talents. “He’s got fantastic musicians in his band, and they can dance too,” she said as the others agreed in unison.
Things heated up considerably when Bruno, who’ll be 36 in October, let us know why his band is known as the Hooligans. After singing a medley of “Be My Baby” (yes, a cover of the old 1960s Phil Spector hit by The Ronettes almost as if it were a nod to those septuagenarians in the venue) and his own “Marry Me,” Mars and his band launched into the raucous “Runaway Baby” before the superstar took to the electric piano to give us a medley of tunes that helped launch his career or that he did with other artists.
First came “F*ck You,” the hit he wrote for CeeLo Green in 2010. As the sellout crowd of more than 3,000 sang loudly along to the chorus that began a trend in F-bomb-dropping titles in pop music, my mother – clearly never having heard the song before – leaned over and said, “it sounds like they’re saying…” – I quickly cut her off and said, “they are, Mom. Just keep enjoying it.”
That quickly (and thankfully) morphed into “Young, Wild & Free” – a tune he’d done with Wiz Khalifa and Snoop Dogg, which was followed by Mars’ own “Grenade.”
Then there was “Nothin’ On You,” the song he did with the rapper B.o.B that essentially put him on the map in 2010. But it was what came next that really had the ladies of the Fab Seven swooning.
Silk Sonic’s “Leave The Door Open.”
Had Bruno and Anderson Paak. not released that No. 1 smash five months ago, we likely wouldn’t have had this experience (and I’d be a couple G’s richer). Ironically, the song we all were hoping he would perform with his Silk Sonic duet partner wasn’t even performed in its entirety. Instead, it was relegated to one small part of a five-song medley, where Mars only graced us with his chorus sections.
More entertaining was the last song in that cluster, the only tune he had no part in writing (although he jokingly claimed the contrary). It was “A Whole New World,” the 1993 No. 1 smash by Peabo Bryson and Regina Belle from the Disney movie Aladdin.
Mars and keyboard player Phredley Brown performed a dead-on cover of the tune, with Brown turning in an impressive falsetto to mimic Belle’s parts. As the song neared its end, Bruno playfully and romantically touched his keyboardist’s nose as he serenaded him before reminding us that he had taken our phones away and that there’d be no evidence of his homo-erotic shenanigans (he didn’t know about this blog, though).
The show continued with more No. 1 hits, including my personal favorite, “Locked Out of Heaven,” which still stands as Mars’ biggest solo hit, based on number of weeks spent at No. 1 on the Billboard charts.
But the real biggie came last – in an encore performance – as they usually do.
It was “Uptown Funk,” which the band rocked out only after briefly leaving the stage – a gesture that had prompted more than one Fab Seven member to quip, “he didn’t perform ‘Uptown Funk’.” I assured them he would, one of several assurances made on this night that, thankfully, proved to be true.
The biggest assurance, however, was the one made before they even stepped foot in the MGM Theater – that they would have a fabulous time and that Bruno would put on one heck of a show.
Both wound up being true, with even the one member of the Fabulous Seven who hadn’t heard of him before recently still talking about the show today.
Now, THAT’s what I like!
Bruno’s Setlist at the MGM Theater (National Harbor) on August 6, 2021:
- “24K Magic”
- “Finesse” (no Cardi B)
- “Calling All My Lovelies”
- “That’s What I Like”
- “Please Me” (no Cardi B)
- “Versace On The Floor”
- Medley: “Be My Baby”/“Marry Me”
- “Runaway Baby”
- Medley: “Fuck You,” “Young, Wild & Free,” “Grenade,” “Nothin’ On You,” “Leave the Door Open,” “A Whole New World”
- “When I Was Your Man”
- “Locked Out of Heaven”
- “Just the Way You Are”
- Encore: “Uptown Funk”
(Setlist courtesy of those yellow stickies)
Oh and those ‘90s tunes that were playing before the concert started? Try this sample on for size:
- “Back and Forth” – Aaliyah
- “Back to Life” – Soul II Soul
- “Come & Talk To Me” – Jodeci
- “If You Love Me” – Brownstone
- “No Diggity” – BLACKstreet ft. Dr. Dre
- “Shoop” – Salt-n-Pepa
- “Hypnotize” – The Notorious B.I.G.
- “Regulate” – Warren G.
- “Slam” – Onyx
- “Summertime” – DJ Jazzy Jeff & the Fresh Prince
DJRob (he/him) is a freelance music blogger from somewhere on the East Coast who covers R&B, hip-hop, pop and rock genres – plus lots of music news and current stuff! You can follow him on Twitter at @djrobblog.
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