Bruno Mars Gave a Show Despite Illness, With Help From His High-Energy Backing Band

Bruno Mars
American Airlines Center, Dallas
Friday, Oct. 27, 2017

Bruno Mars and his backing band, the Hooligans, brought the house down Friday night. They had the crowd dancing in the aisles for nearly the entire time. But during some of the slower ballads, Mars’ drawn face flickered with hints of weariness.

The day after the show, Mars canceled his Monday concert in Denver, saying he had a sinus infection. "I had it in Dallas and was able to power through, but I'm afraid I made it worse," he wrote.

Mars has trekked across the globe on his grueling, 166-date 24K Magical Tour since March. It started in Europe and will continue until next July.

Luckily, Mars had great support in the Hooligans, who imbued the arena with energy when Mars lagged. They are seasoned performers whom Mars “rehearsed the hell out of."

It’s easy to underestimate Mars. He makes pop hits, he’s good looking and he may be a little bit of a sappy love addict, if his songs are any indication. Yet he’s a skilled showman who lights up a room as big as the American Airlines Center.

His early training has surely played a huge a part in this success. Mars was born to a percussionist father and a singer-dancer mother who met when they performed at a Hilton in Hawaii. They raised their kids in show business, starting a family act that had a successful run until the couple divorced.

Whether it was nature or nurture, Mars had been bitten by the performance bug. Last year, he told Rolling Stone that even if he hadn’t made it big, he'd be on a stage in a bar somewhere with a guitar in hand.

Mars hopped on the guitar for several numbers Friday night, which was somewhat surprising, given the fact that his backing band is superb.

All eight members are fantastic musicians: Mars’ brother Eric Hernandez on drums, Kameron Whalum III on trombone, Jamareo Artis on bass, Phred Brown on guitar, John Fossitt on keyboard, James King on trumpet, Dwayne Dugger on saxophone and Philip Lawrence on background vocals.

Unlike in televised performances where Mars’ mug monopolizes most of the camera time, in the stage show, the Hooligans shone as bright as Mars. Dressed in matching Hooligans baseball uniforms, they looked the part of a cohesive unit and played like a team of brothers, mock fighting and hamming it up onstage.

The Hooligans double as backup dancers, enacting physically demanding choreography in the midst of playing their instruments. How they do it is a mystery. How they do it for two hours straight is something akin to magic.

While most of the guys’ energy waned slightly halfway through the hour-and-45-minute set, Artis was the lone holdout; he seemed to possess qualities of boundless energy and unflagging pep.

Mars’ show was a sight to behold and was presented on one of the best stage sets seen at AAC. The stage was bordered by modish light panels that lit up and glowed in ways that evoked swanky ultralounge meets Saturday Night Fever dance floor. More light panels and light-up columns descended from the ceiling, and lasers shone into the crowd for various songs.

These big shows by the megastars often get bogged down by the bag of tricks they dump on the audience — stuff like fog, lasers, hydraulic platforms, pyrotechnics and fireworks. And while Mars’ show made use of four of those, it somehow worked, probably because Mars never relied on them. His team’s performance would have lit up the arena without the bells and whistles.

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