Review: In Tampa, Bruno Mars puts the funky, 24K Magic touch on a titillating Thursday night party (w/setlist)

And 17,500 fans at a sold-out Amalie Arena hip-thrusted along.

click to enlarge Quincy Printup, 8, at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida on October 19, 2017. - Ray Roa
Ray Roa
Quincy Printup, 8, at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida on October 19, 2017.

Evidence of Bruno Mars’s mass appeal is all over the Billboard charts. The 32-year-old pop superstar has sold over 170 million singles (and 26 million albums) worldwide. He’s a curly-haired Hawaiian with a hankering to hip-thrust, a holdover from the pre-streaming days, and in 2013 his charisma earned him 155 sold-out dates on the Moonshine Jungle tour.

Mars’s mass appeal was also on full display in the breezeway of Tampa’s Amalie Arena as more than 17,500 fans found their way to their seats for a sold-out show. There was the Driggers-Parker family, whose kids — Emma, Drew and Gemma — joined Adam Driggers and Sherry Parker to wear coordinating t-shirts that spelled “B-R-U-N-O.” There were unaccompanied grandmothers in oversized Bruno shirts. And there was Quincy Printup, 8, decked out in a chain, gold watch and crispy white hat that hid a mop of hair befitting a boy twice his age.

click to enlarge (L-R) Adam Driggers (36), Sherry Parker (36), Emma Driggers (10), Drew Parker (10), Gemma Parker (8) at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida on October 19, 2017. - Ray Roa
Ray Roa
(L-R) Adam Driggers (36), Sherry Parker (36), Emma Driggers (10), Drew Parker (10), Gemma Parker (8) at Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida on October 19, 2017.

Oh, and there was the young concertgoer who walked out of the Lexus Lounge onto the Amalie Arena floor before engaging in a dance-off with another fan. She won — to loud applause — and celebrated by gyrating near the sound and video board. It was a celebration of booty just right for the night that would unfold.

Mars — playing in support of last year’s 24K Magic, his first album in four years — is wholly aware of his popularity, but he didn’t pull any punches in the show (which teetered on the edge of PG-13) and even tactfully deployed a curse during the phone interlude on “Calling On My Lovelies.”

“Hey baby. It’s Bruno. I’m in Tampa,” he said in a mock voicemail to a proverbial love lost. “Remember when you said you wanted to vacation in Jamaica and the Bahamas — and I said, ‘Fuck that we going to Tampa.’?”

The joke elicited one of the dozens of wide-eyed grins that Mars would unleash during the course of his 16-song set, and it was a mere blip on a fun-filled 90-minute musical rollercoaster.

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Mars — even bathed in purple light on “Lovelies” — is admittedly not Prince on the guitar, but over and again on Thursday, he proved that he may still be the best young male entertainer touring today. He made two-steppin’ look easy on “24K Magic” and then perfectly popped & locked on “Chunky.” On “Treasure” — a highlight from his 2012 album Unorthodox Jukebox — Mars pelvic-thrusted the mic stand like his life depended on it before a rainbow-colored dance breakdown blew the roof off the building just three songs in. He put one of the cleanest vocals in pop on full display for a stripped-down take on “When I Was Your Man,” and channeled the sock-hop, “Rock Lobster” vibes of the B-52s on “Runaway Baby” from his 2010 debut, Doo-Wops & Hooligans.

Keyboard commander Judge Foster got a chance to shine on an extended piano solo, and Mars’s secret weapon — an eight-piece band that handled dancing along with sax, horns, bass and guitar — never had to take a back seat at any point in the set. The self-proclaimed Hooligans — complete with birthday boy Frank Brunot on bass — matched Mars step for step, and for all the modern showmanship (read: pyro better than most metal shows), Mars shines brightest when he turns the clock back and taps into the old-school R&B he grew up on.

The yachty-throwback jam “Straight Up & Down” came direct out of an old New Edition maxi-single, and his dance moves on the aforementioned “Runaway” were pretty much clipped right out of the b-roll from James Brown’s 1968 performance at the Boston Garden. There were moments — especially when Foster draped the arena in big-bottomed synth on songs like opener “Finesse” — when it was impossible not to think of Teddy Riley and Blackstreet. “That’s What I Like” even borrowed some Latin rhythm when the lyric mentioned “trips to Puerto Rico.”

Mars’s feet — wrapped up in white Nikes — obliged with a little cha-cha, and the whole show found the cameras panning over Mars — cloaked in a “24K” baseball jersey — admiring the big-league audiences he’s earned in a relatively short career.

The show had been sold out for what seemed like months, and while Mars has definitely infiltrated seemingly every fan demographic Nielsen measures, the crowds at his concerts are a perfect concoction of cognac connoisseurs and Pumpkin Spice princes and princesses. And it all happens at the hands of Mars, the boy who grew up impersonating Elvis on the Waikiki strip.

There are young kids imitating Mars nowadays, and that’s great because he is most definitely the Funkiest of all the Cold Medinas, and as he enters his prime, Mars just might be the perfect bus driver for whatever crazy ride he’s about to take us on.

Have a look at the setlist — and listen to a playlist featuring songs from the show — below. There were no photographers allowed to shoot the show, so you’ll have to troll Instagram to get your visual licks in.

Setlist

Finesse

24K Magic

Treasure

Perm

Calling All My LoveliesChunky

That’s What I Like

Straight Up & Down

Versace On the Floor

Marry You

Runaway Baby

When I Was Your Man

Gorilla

Just The Way You Are

Locked Out Of Heaven

Uptown Funk

 

About The Author

Ray Roa

Read his 2016 intro letter and disclosures from 2022 and 2021. Ray Roa started freelancing for Creative Loafing Tampa in January 2011 and was hired as music editor in August 2016. He became Editor-In-Chief in August 2019. Past work can be seen at Suburban Apologist, Tampa Bay Times, Consequence of Sound and The...
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