MANILA, Philippines?(UPDATE) Bruno Mars drove more than 10,000 people crazy with a spellbinding performance Friday night at the Araneta Coliseum.
He made it more special by stirring national pride among the mostly local audience. ?I am Filipino!? he proclaimed near the end of the sold-out concert.
Born Peter Gene Hernandez in Hawaii to a Puerto Rican father and Filipino mother, the recent Grammy winner and hotshot singer-songwriter pointed out that his Filipino clan was watching with the crowd, including his grandparents and his mother, Bernadette.
On Thursday night his relatives also joined him at the Waterfront Cebu Hotel where he held his first of two concerts, bankrolled by actor-restaurateur Marvin Agustin with a couple of celebrity folks as partners.
At the Big Dome, where SRO tickets had to be sold to accommodate a huge demand from fans, the 25-year-old Mars presented a show that revealed his deep love for classic rock ?n? roll. Even before the gig started, the house music primed the audience with a selection of hits by Elvis Presley, The Temptations, among others.
Striding onstage and momentarily banging on the drums as a warm-up, Mars settled down with an electric guitar, accompanied by a five-piece band composed of Afro-Americans and Asians. But his opening number, ?The Other Side,? a track from his debut album ?Doo-Wops and Hooligans,? burned with vocal passion and musical ferocity.
Throughout the show he laid bare his R&B, soul and reggae influences. On the third song, he launched into a raging version of Barrett Strong?s 1959 hit ?Money (That?s What I Want)? ? famously covered by The Beatles ? as an intro to ?Billionaire,? the worldwide hit by Travie McCoy which Mars co-wrote and produced.
?Can we slow down?? he asked the crowd before playing his own tune, ?Our First Time,? channeling Michael Jackson but more erotic in tone ? the song?s raging-hormones theme tempered only by a cool reggae beat.
Mars followed it with an all-out homage to Jackson: a faster version of ?Billie Jean? with clanging guitars reminiscent of The Troggs? 1965 hit ?Wild Thing,? and ?I Want You Back,? the Jackson 5?s 1969 first single on the Motown label.
The crowd went nuts upon hearing the next song, ?Marry You,? an original track off ?Doo-Wops and Hooligans,? distinctly memorable for its driving rhythms and happy wedding bells background.
But not everything was bright and sunshiny in Mars? songs. ?Liquor Store Blues,? though arranged in engaging dancehall-reggae style, was in fact dark and gloomy, the lyrics howling with drunkenness and desolation: ?One shot for my pain??
There was pandemonium when Mars proceeded with ?Nothin? on You,? another worldwide hit (No. 1 in the United States, United Kingdom and the Netherlands) which he co-wrote and produced with hip hop artist B.o.B.
But apparently Mars preferred the audience to likewise appreciate the next tune, ?Grenade,? which he said was his personal favorite. Like ?Liquor Store Blues,? it was not a happy song, its sentiments dripping with frustration: ?I would die for you, but you won?t do the same.?
Hysteria accompanied his own No. 1 hit, ?Just the Way You Are,? the audience taking over the song?s chorus.
There was one more impressive showcase via the encore, ?Runaway Baby,? in which Mars lent credence to his album and tour title ?Doo-Wops? by doing a James Brown act, complete with a backup vocal trio. His footwork elicited applause, even if he couldn?t execute a full leg split.
The gig, which lasted for an hour-and-a-half, also displayed Mars? guitar-playing skills. On ?Grenade? his axe wailed with blasts of hard rock. But on ?Count on Me? he switched to a ukulele, evoking laid-back beach scenes not unlike those in Hawaii where he grew up.
He said it was his first time to come to the Philippines where his mother was born. He vowed to be back, overwhelmed by the crowd?s lusty cheers: ?I want to see the same faces when I return, okay??