Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Bruno Mars plays his songs: A review

Ladies and gentlemen, here is Bruno Mars, writer of hits, singer of songs, dapper of attire, owner of a quiff. He was born Peter Gene Hernandez, and got his first taste of the limelight at the age of two, when he toured Japan with his father's doo-wop band.

The experience shows.

Launching his album in London's Cafe De Paris (a week after the album went to number one, natch) young Bruno does the soft-shoe shuffle with all the panache of a junior James Brown. His band, The Smeezingtons, pop and sizzle like a tightly regimented bowl of Rice Crispies. And - parents be warned - Bruno's soaring soul voice and baby-faced good looks are enough to spontaneously initiate puberty in teenage girls.

If anything lets him down, then, it's the material. Bruno's reggae-tinged soul can lack the grit of his musical heroes, Michael Jackson and Bob Marley... but when he finds a spark - on space funk jam The Other Side, for example - he generates enough smoke to trigger your musical fire alarm. By the time he wraps up the set with lighters-aloft soul ballad Just The Way You Are, we're in danger of being burnt alive. Metaphorically, you understand.

The gig is fleshed out with a handful of covers - Del Shannon's Runaway ("I wah-wah-wah-wah wonder") and a grinding mash-up of Smells Like Teen Spirit and Billie Jean. They give an alluring glimpse of what this 25-year-old can do with the right material. If he stops giving gems like F**k You and Nothin' On You to other artists, Mr Mars is destined for the stratosphere.

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