Bruno Mars, Café de Paris, London
C W Stoneking, Komedia, Brighton

The sharp-suited Hawaiian looks great, has an album at the top of the charts and a calculated charm that works. What a shame that his easy funk-pop has all the sentiment of a Hallmark card

Turn to the left: VIP area. Turn to the right: VIP area. Straight ahead: sardines.

At the best of times, the Café de Paris is already the sort of venue that makes you feel that you're allowed in only under sufferance. Tonight, getting further than the lobby is a bigger challenge.

"I know it's a little hot and a little tight," says the disembodied voice of Bruno Mars somewhere beneath a neon sign reading Doo-Wops and Hooligans, the title of the album which currently sits at the top of the UK charts. If we were any more tightly packed, we'd be getting elastic marks from other people's underwear.

A hat-loving Hawaiian from Honolulu, Mars has craftily inveigled himself, via a series of co-writes and guest spots, into a situation where he bestrides the planet like a merciless H G Wells tripod. Martian songwriting credits include "Right Round" for Flo Rida and "Wavin' Flag" by K'naan, but it's his high-profile collaborations with B.o.B. and Travie McCoy that have turned the 25-year-old into a household name (even if that name isn't his own: he was born Peter Gene Hernandez). It's been a calculated ascent, and it's working brilliantly. The eyes of Bruno Mars are on the prize.

The holders of the hottest ticket in town are mostly industry types, but make no mistake: when this guy goes on tour properly, there'll be hysteria. When he says "It wasn't so long since we were playing bars and clubs", it's with the humility of a man who knows he'll never need to do that again.

His stock in trade is bustling funk-pop, smooth soul-rock and light acoustic reggae. He's Mike Posner meets Orson meets Maroon 5 meets Jack Johnson meets Mark Ronson. It's all mainstream fare, tailor made to be heard at low volume on the nation's office radios. A bit of Mars a day helps Britain work, rest and play.

It doesn't hurt that he's a looker. Mars only has to say the word "ladies" in his smoky voice for the ambient crowd noise suddenly to leap as many octaves as decibels. He also has a relaxed charm that you wouldn't necessarily expect from a man who has a potential prison sentence hanging over him for a Las Vegas cocaine bust.

Suited and booted in Blues Brothers get-ups, he and his backing musicians are like a particularly expensive wedding band, slickly pleasing the crowd with rehearsed tricks like a live mash-up of "Billie Jean" and "Smells Like Teen Spirit", and a cheesy London-based rap which name-drops Buckingham Palace.

The much-covered-on-X-Factor "Billionaire" highlights an interesting new phenomenon: aspiration inflation. It wasn't long ago that "millionaire" was the shorthand for success in pop's lyrical lexicon, but any Tom, Dick or Andre 3000 can be a mere millionaire these days. These days, being "on the cover of Forbes magazine, standing next to Oprah and the Queen" is where it's at. The song was inspired, he tells us, by Barrett Strong's "Money", and Mars attacks that Motown relic tonight with a fiery Beatles-in-Hamburg brio.

But the loudest "awww!" noises are reserved for the soft-centred Hallmark card sentiments of the hits "Nothing on You" and "Just the Way You Are" (his first British No 1), which are fiendishly well judged to melt the hearts of their target market. This guy knows precisely what he's doing, and it's hard not to have a sneaking admiration for that. Love him or merely tolerate him, for the time being there's definitely life on Mars.

C W Stoneking is a 36-year-old from Australia, born to American parents and raised in the small Aboriginal community of Papunya, Northern Territory. With two slow-burner albums to his name (2005's King Hokum, 2008's Jungle Blues), he finds himself perfectly placed to catch the wave of all things vintage.

Brylcreemed and dickie-bowed, a ukulele hanging around his neck, Stoneking and his Primitive Horn Orchestra (trumpet, trombone, tuba) play a bewitchingly believable combination of dark Dixieland jazz and Louisiana jug band blues. Ghosts of Al Bowlly and Leon Redbone echo through such songs as "Dodo Blues" and "Don't Go Dancin' at the Darktown Strutters' Ball". Even Stoneking's speech defect (a mild lisp) has the effect, by happy accident, of making him sound as though he's crackling through a wind-up gramophone.

The subtleties are somewhat wasted on a crowd who chatter loudly throughout, suggesting that some see Stoneking as mere period background music. But this man isn't a mere stylist: he's a genuinely brilliant songwriter, in any genre and any era.

He's also a masterly teller of tall tales, like the one about hillbilly hero Jimmie Rodgers becoming a deity in Africa after a missionary left some LPs behind. Just when you're lost in some 1930s reverie, he snaps you out of it by mentioning his little brother being a techno DJ. Brilliantly done, and far more honest than the manufactured authenticity of, say, a Seasick Steve.

If someone in the near future tells you they're selling their electric guitar and buying a banjo, C W Stone- king might just be the reason why.

Next Week:

Simon Price gets kettled with Gang of Four and The Agitator

Rock Choice

Crystal Castles, Magnetic Man, Everything Everything and The Vaccines comprise an unusually eclectic bill on the NME Awards Tour, opening at Glasgow's Academy (Thu), followed by Manchester's Academy (Fri, Sat); and elsewhere. Epic rock trio White Lies start to tour their new album Ritual at the Junction in Cambridge (Fri).

Arts and Entertainment
Reawakening: can Jon Hamm’s Don Draper find enlightenment in the final ‘Mad Men’?
tv reviewNot quite, but it's an enlightening finale for Don Draper spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Breakfast Show’s Nick Grimshaw

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
'Youth' cast members Paul Dano, Jane Fonda, Harvey Keitel, Rachel Weisz, and Michael Caine pose for photographers at Cannes Film Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Adam West as Batman and Burt Ward and Robin in the 1960s Batman TV show

Arts and Entertainment
I am flute: Azeem Ward and his now-famous instrument
Arts and Entertainment
A glass act: Dr Chris van Tulleken (left) and twin Xand get set for their drinking challenge
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
MIA perform at Lovebox 2014 in London Fields, Hackney

Arts and Entertainment
Finnish punk band PKN hope to enter Eurovision 2015 and raise awareness for Down's Syndrome

Arts and Entertainment
William Shakespeare on the cover of John Gerard's The Herball or Generall Historie of Plantes

Arts and Entertainment

Game of Thrones review
Arts and Entertainment
Grayson Perry dedicates his Essex home to Julie

Potter's attempt to create an Essex Taj Mahal was a lovely treat

Arts and Entertainment
A scene from the original Swedish version of the sci-fi TV drama ‘Real Humans’
Arts and Entertainment
Hugh Keays-Byrne plays Immortan Joe, the terrifying gang leader, in the new film
filmActor who played Toecutter returns - but as a different villain in reboot
Arts and Entertainment
Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa in Mad Max: Fury Road
Arts and Entertainment
Jessica Hynes in W1A
tvReview: Perhaps the creators of W1A should lay off the copy and paste function spoiler alert
Arts and Entertainment
Power play: Mitsuko Uchida in concert

Arts and Entertainment
Dangerous liaisons: Dominic West, Jake Richard Siciliano, Maura Tierney and Leya Catlett in ‘The Affair’ – a contradictory drama but one which is sure to reel the viewers in
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Richard Herring, pictured performing at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival two years ago
Arts and Entertainment
Music freak: Max Runham in the funfair band
Arts and Entertainment
film 'I felt under-used by Hollywood'
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

    Abuse - and the hell that follows

    James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
    Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

    It's oh so quiet!

    The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
    'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

    'Timeless fashion'

    It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
    If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

    Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

    Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
    New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

    Evolution of swimwear

    From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
    Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

    Sun, sex and an anthropological study

    One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
    From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

    Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

    'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
    'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

    Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

    This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

    Songs from the bell jar

    Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
    How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

    One man's day in high heels

    ...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

    Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
    The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

    King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

    The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

    End of the Aussie brain drain

    More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
    Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

    Can meditation be bad for you?

    Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
    Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

    Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

    Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine