Friday night I, very last minute (as in, I bought the tickets and had to leave ten minutes later in order to make it in time) decided to see Bruno Mars' Moonshine Jungle Tour concert at the Maverik Center in West Valley.
I really didn't know much about this guy. "Nothin' on You" was the song you couldn't escape right before I left on my mission, so when I came back, the name "Bruno Mars" struck a familiar ring, but meant nothing else to me.
This performance on TV a couple months ago caught my attention:
I feel that the older I get, the less expressive I can be with words. Instead of trying to describe what I experienced, I want to echo every last word of this review by NPR.
I'm going to use some excerpts from it.
"Mars has released two sparkling albums full of radio friendly pop, 2010's Doo-Wops and Hooligans and last year's Unorthodox Jukebox. You can't escape the sound of his voice or his sensibility, but though he's dismissed by many as a mere song-crafter, Mars is actually the moment's most valuable pop historian. In his songs we see the whole history of melodic music you can dance to, from Tin Pan Alley to his beloved early-'60s pop to that '80s moment when new wave and R&B collided. His sound is also wonderfully international, interspersing reggae and Latin influences with the swagger of hip-hop."
Maybe I was born in the wrong era, but I find it extremely difficult to find my identity in contemporary music. Lately I haven't really loved the mellow, poetic, alternative rock (The Postal Service, Stars, etc.) that used to be "my thing." Melodic, jovial, music that is sung is a huge rarity in not just popular music, but in current music, period. I don't enjoy the deafening themes and beats of dubsteb and most current hip-hop. I can't sit still or even stay awake and listen to an artist whisper their lyrics (no matter how poetic) to me like I used to. And I certainly don't enjoy (never have) auto-tune.
"...Mars asserts his own humanity by stressing his skills and grace as a musician. Instead of the almost musical theater-like atmosphere of most current arena tours, this one focuses on the basic unit of post-midcentury pop: the band. As Mars and his mates bust synchronized moves and admire each others playing, their delight is our delight."
It's the melodic jazz, blues, and soul of decades past that moves me. These artists were singers that sung from the top to the bottom of their ranges. They belted, they were backed by real instruments, they danced, and they crossed all boundaries. Their voices were their talent. Their voice was what they had to showcase; no need for whistles and bells. I feel that this kind of music is a tragically dead genre. Or at least I thought that until Friday night.
Oh and by the way, Bruno played lead guitar for nearly half the set. Not just a couple chords to make him look cool, he carried the melody, played solos and power chords, all while dancing. He also played a mean drum solo for the encore. I had no idea he could do that...
"It's just that old thing that art occasionally offers: a glimpse of a better world, or at least a happier one. Lately I've been struggling to cope with all the complicated and painful news that's come our way; maybe you have, too. The verdict in the Trayvon Martin case has led to many crucial but painful conversations about race. The bankruptcy of Detroit — the city where so much great pop music has been made — inspires worries about the state of urban America and the growing distance between our rich and our poor. Recent events in the Texas House of Representatives highlight how deep our political divisions have become. For an average citizen, this is a lot to deal with."I'm fine with artists being social activists. Really. In fact I think it's a necessity. But we (or maybe just I) need this kind of art as well. The kind that is simply an escape. The kind that just makes you dance.
"Unlike many headliners, however, Mars roots his spectacle in the act of generating a groove... Mars doesn't set himself apart from his eight-piece band: he dresses like them, dances in sync with their steps, and lets them enjoy significant moments in the spotlight...
This emphasis on camaraderie onstage affected the atmosphere in the whole arena. I've been to plenty of big shows where everybody joined in the revelry, but this might have been the first one where I saw no impropriety, no disregard for others' feelings, no unwarranted aggression. As I danced, the woman behind me smilingly encouraged me to put down my pocketbook and shake my hips.... A family a few rows away, including a pint-sized brother and sister in their Sunday best, took selfies and waved their hands in the air. "Okay, I'll retract that statement. WE need this kind of music. I saw strikingly similar behavior at the concert I attended. People were striking up conversation with strangers, dancing with each other and taking group pictures as favors. Many of these groups were families.
"Her dad [the author's daughter] noted that this was the first concert we'd all attended together by an artist we'd all discovered at the same time... Bruno Mars is a family-style pop star because — like a century's worth of master manipulators of the double entendre — he grasps the connection between grown-up thrills and childish giggles. Think of Mars' first idol, Elvis Presley, slyly winking and shaking his hips. In today's hyper-sexual pop world, such innuendo is so gentle that it charms the parents and doesn't scare their kids.
|From Just Jared|
Mars's fans, incidentally, were as diverse as it gets: Asian, African-American, Latino and white. Mars himself is half Puerto-Rican and half-Filipino, and his band is mostly African-American... being in that room, joining in the dance, allowed me to imagine the America I want to live in every day: tolerant, aware, kind."Can I say that again? WE NEED THIS.
"I wouldn't make too much of this feeling — it's the kind of thing that overtakes many crowds in the midst of simultaneous enjoyment — but what makes Mars's show special is that the music itself provides a basis for believing in love and grace across the lines of identity. It's often been said that Mars's songs are derivative; he borrows heavily from throughout the history of black pop from gospel to hip-hop, and as he himself said in concert, he named his first album Doo Wops & Hooligans because he's "in love with old school music." Instead of feeling stale, however, in concert Mars's traditionalist tendencies reminded us that popular music has been the main symbolic meeting ground for people who otherwise might not have ever left their own neighborhoods. "Identity. I think that's the operative word here. That's my problem. I've tried so hard to create an identity for myself through music. I've tried so hard since perhaps junior high school to have mutual interests with my peers in music especially. WHAT GOOD IS THAT?! It's one thing to be open, to take recommendations, and to try new things, but IDENTITY should be 100% rooted in an individual. I'd much rather make friends through differing interests rather than my interests be limited to those that are shared by my "friends."
I listen to music for me. And it's terribly sad that society will try to pigeon-hole you or try to stick a label sticker on you based strictly on your taste in music. If you like Bon Iver and Elliot Smith, you're hipster. If you like rap (and are a Utah caucasian), you're a bro. If you're female and like Katy Perry and Rihanna, you're dumb. If you're male and like pop or R&B solo artists, you're gay. If you like screamo, you're probably on drugs or cutting yourself. Why, why, WHY do we do this?!
" ...I think it's...fair to hope that all of us who shouted along with one of his most-loved ballads of sweet romantic uplift were able to carry forward the message contained within the evening's grooves, and in that case, made explicit in its chorus. Look at each other, concertgoers. Thank Bruno Mars for helping each of us take the risk to believe this about each other: you're amazing, just the way you are."Preach Bruno. I'm definitely a fan now.