Bruno Mars
Moonshine Jungle Tour- Quicken Loans Arena
Cleveland, OH, June 26, 2014


By Michael Rampa

Although he is technically a pop star, Bruno Mars is a throwback artist in every way. He starts on time, he plays like Chuck Berry, moves like MJ and is rooted in doo wop. The Filipino/Puerto Rican heart-throb stopped into Cleveland on a near 90 degree day and made it even hotter. When the palm tree curtain dropped on the “Moonshine Jungle”, Mars got the crowd instantly on their feet and singing along to an assault of the power packed trio, “Moonshine,” “Natalie” and “Treasure.” They never sat back down. The infectious energy of the band was matched only by the production. That said, the combination of strobes, lasers and pyro led to a feel of sensory overload and distracted from the performance at times. It felt like he and his fleet-footed band were fighting through the production effects.  Although played nearly exclusively on pop frequencies, Mars is classically influenced and the band’s sound is more reminiscent of funk. The heavy bass and infectious grooves resurrect the sound’s 1970s heyday.  It is easy to forget that he only has two albums to his credit as he rolls through the 90 minutes playing hit after recognizable hit. The profanity laced “Billionaire” may have been offensive to some, but was no less effective in its delivery. In the evening’s most touching moment, he preceded “Just the Way You Are” with a video of 11-year-old Zamyah Thorpe. The Ohio native lost most of her family and suffered severe injuries, including blindness, when a drunk driver ran a red light. She was in attendance and Mars sang the song wrapped in her arms. There may be more to the retro material than he artist’s fondness for it. Mars knows how to market himself. His demographic captures teeny boppers with Bieber like tenacity. More importantly, the older material, squeaky clean image and raw talent win over the parents with the pocketbooks.


It has been said that the most successful artists surround themselves with people who are as good as they are. Mars’ difficult dance moves are his signature. But the band was never outshone and remained in lock step all night. Indeed, it was difficult to decide who to look at. The star shared the stage as much as he played the front man role.

As if he needed to excite the hysterical crowd further, he said, ““Our job is to get y’all moving, get y’all shaking, but you can’t really do that with your camera phones in your hand, can you?”


After 80 minutes, he snuck quietly onstage behind a drum set and began the encore with a frenetic solo that morphed into Locked Out Of Heaven and Gorilla.
When the house lights finally came on the sold out crowd looked as exhausted as the artist. To use a sports analogy, he didn’t leave anything on the field.

Aloe Blacc, another throwback performer with equal charisma opened the night with a 45-minute set that featured his megahit “The Man” and “I Need A Dollar.”