Is Bruno Mars done at Park Theater? Although his February 19 show was the last scheduled concert at the approximately 5,200-seat venue, I’d guess he’ll be back again this year whenever he can fit in another big Vegas weekend. His world-beating 24K Magic World Tour rolls on this month to New Zealand and Australia, then he’ll be springing in Asia and summering in Europe.
He’s back in the states for the BottleRock music festival in Napa Valley, California, on May 27, so perhaps he’ll hit the Strip for some Memorial Day Weekend shows. Besides, when his residency at Park Theater was announced in the fall of 2016—kick-starting the new venue with New Year’s Eve weekend shows that December—it was discussed as a multi-year thing. It’s really only been a year.
Bruno’s show isn’t really a residency, at least not in the way that word is currently defined on the Strip, and certainly unlike the other Park Theater productions starring Cher and Ricky Martin. It’s all Bruno—his songs, his band, his Grammy-amassing style—and no extra Vegas fabulousness. Cher and Ricky descend from the ceiling to open their shows, shimmering in luxurious costumes and singing their biggest hits. Bruno wears the same pair of track pants for his entire concert, sells the place out and keeps most everyone on their feet for 90 minutes. Justin Timberlake and Taylor Swift both have new albums out, but Bruno Mars is the biggest pop star in the world right now.
I finally caught his show on February 17, crept into my seat in the back of the lower level between a row of Asian 20-somethings and a mixed bag of middle-aged folks and proceeded to watch everyone sing and dance along to a 32-year-old Hawaiian of Filipino and Puerto Rican descent performing music that belongs on the R&B and pop charts of the 1980s and ’90s. Actually, the older audience members seemed to be having the better time, as they knew all the songs in Bruno’s mid-set medley covering Ginuwine, Janet Jackson, Bobby Brown and Soul for Real. Those kids kept dancing and cheering but were clearly confused by the chorus of “Candy Rain.”
He opened with current Hot 100 No. 3 track “Finesse,” engaging the crowd from the beginning and never letting them go. He took cover suggestions from fans and sang little bits of Steve Wonder’s “My Cherie Amour” and Lauryn Hill’s “Doo Wop (That Thing)” before digging all the way into Prince’s “Let’s Go Crazy,” as he did for the 2017 Grammy tribute to the Purple One. He sang along with the crowd on the ballad “When I Was Your Man” before bringing his full posse back to the stage for “Locked Out of Heaven” and “Just the Way You Are,” and indulged the audience with the obligatory encore of “Uptown Funk.”
Celine Dion might have started the current Strip resident headliner trend at the Colosseum, and Britney Spears brought some fresh energy at the Axis, but the modern age of Vegas entertainment hasn’t had a hotter, more relevant regular than Bruno Mars. It would be great for Vegas if he keeps coming back, especially here, where Lady Gaga will begin a multi-year run of her own in December. It’s a safe bet Britney will also sign up for duty at Park Theater, since her show at Planet Hollywood has ended and she'll kick off her Piece of Me Tour at MGM’s National Harbor Theater in July. More Bruno would definitely push the Park lineup into all-star status.