Bruno Mars at the O2 Arena, London, gig review: 'Uptown Funk' star brings the party but fans don’t feel like dancing

All the ingredients for a spectacular show are there, yet a stellar performance doesn't seem to reach the far corners of the arena

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The Independent Culture

Think of Bruno Mars at a live show and you’ll likely envisage excess, swagger, bright lights – essentially one massive party.

While he and his band certainly delivers on all of that – Mars’s charm and charisma are irresistible – and all the ingredients for a spectacular show are there, his performance doesn’t quite reach the far corners of the sold-out venue. 

Perhaps it’s because he kept fans waiting 30 minutes after he was scheduled to appear. Perhaps it’s just because it’s the Tuesday after a bank holiday and fans are still recovering from the weekend. 

But much of the night feels as though it has been set to a timer with no room for spontaneity – and there are too many moments where the audience seem unresponsive, or even a little disgruntled.

A skit where Mars tells the crowd off for being too quiet and consequently brings the music down goes on for minutes and actually draws a few boos; rather than clock the negative reception and pull out early, Mars continues the joke for what is presumably the scheduled time. 

Older material like “The Lazy Song” or “Marry You” sounds dated in comparison to tracks off his most recent record – ironic considering the vintage sound he goes for on the latter – and while Mars intended his most recent record 24k Magic as a tribute of sorts to the school dances he went to in the Nineties, a track like “Versace On The Floor” tips the scale to cloying rather than seductive.

Upbeat songs like the tongue-in-cheek “Chunky” boost the mood considerably and Mars is irrepressible when he dances around the stage to that infectious funk riff.

You’d be pushed to find many other artists who sound as good live as they do in the studio, but when his band The Hooligans take a step back and the flashy effects are toned down, Mars really gets a chance to shine. 

His rendition of “When I Was Your Man” is surprisingly heartfelt, his vocals aren’t swamped by an over-enthusiastic drummer, and he hits a gorgeous final note that has the most stoic of audience members clutching for a tissue. 

There’s something for everyone tonight – fans of the ballads get “Just The Way You Are” while those looking for a jam session are treated to the faintly ridiculous “Perm” (“activate your sexy”?) and the hip-swinging “That’s What I Like” – it's testament to his prowess as performer, arranger, producer that he's able to curate a set with as much range as this. 

So regardless of whether the audience was really feeling it for the entire show, you can guarantee most of them will still be singing “Uptown Funk” all the way home – and likely for much of the next day.