Nobody doesn’t like Bruno Mars.
At least, judging by the number of concerts he plays here and the number of people who ask me if I’ve got ticket connections. (No, I don’t.)
Bruno is back, performing two nights this week again at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, just like he did last year — when the arena sold standing-room-only tickets, a rarity there — on what is the same 24K Magic World Tour.
The ever-popular 32-year-old 11-time Grammy winner is the most accomplished all-around talent to come along in popular music since Prince.
Here are the reasons why.
Vocals. Mars sings like an aviary of different birds. He’s a romantic crooner, a rocker, a soul man, a rapper, a doo-wop harmonizer and high tenor — you name it.
Presence. He’s got the jittery energy of Michael Jackson, the cool swagger of Prince and the unstoppable showmanship of James Brown.
Moves. He’s got more moves than you’ll see on a season of “Dancing With the Stars.” He can swivel his hips like the King, lock and pop like the Thriller, slip and slide like the Godfather, dance in step with bandmates like the Temptations and just let his body flow to the music without any choreography.
Songs. Mars’ show is about the songbook, not the spectacle. To be sure, there are giant video screens, flamethrowers, stage fog, lasers and confetti, but those special effects don’t dominate or even detract from his performance.
Bandleader. With the Hooligans, Mars leads a rare group of musicians who can dance and play instruments — often at the same time. Their ensemble dancing is as impressive as their instrumental work. And almost all of them have been with Mars since 2010.
Musicianship. Mars is a pretty serious musician himself, as he demonstrates in concert with turns on guitar and drums. He may not be as masterful as Prince on an array of instruments, but Mars can hold his own.
Sound. Mars’ music is retro and contemporary at the same time — and strikingly eclectic. His songbook runs the gamut from reggae to pop balladry to new jack swing to Earth, Wind & Fire-like horns-and-harmony R&B to classic rock ’n’ soul to ’80s pop-soul to fashionable hip-hop meets R&B.
Work ethic. Like James Brown, Mars is a sweat machine. He works hard for his money. He’ll do 212 concerts on this tour by the time it wraps up Nov. 11 in Honolulu, where Mars was born Peter Hernandez.
Appeal. Mars, who is of Filipino and Puerto Rican descent, probably draws the most diverse audience in popular music today. His crowd typically includes teens, baby boomers (many with their kids), millennials, dance club denizens, Latinos, Filipinos, Asians, Africans, African-Americans — just about everybody except indie-rock hipsters.
Demand. Like Prince in his ’80s heyday, the much admired Mars writes and produces for others — and sings with them, too. Among Mars’ credits are the hits “Nothin’ on You” by B.o.B., “Billionaire” by Travie McCoy, “Forget You” by CeeLo Green, “Wavin’ Flag” by K’naan, “Lighters” by Bad Meets Evil, “Young, Wild and Free” by Snoop Dogg and Wiz Khalifa, “Mirror” by Lil Wayne and “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson. Mars also worked on projects by Adele, Flo Rida, Matisyahu, Sean Kingston and Adam Lambert. As of 2015, Mars stopped collaborating to concentrate on his own endeavors.
Humble. Well, sort of. With the Grammy-winning success of “Uptown Funk” with Ronson, Mars acknowledged his debt to the Time, a clear inspiration for various aspects of that worldwide smash. He also has discussed the influence of Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson — he used to do youthful impressions of both in his family’s variety show. Mars isn’t afraid to tip his cap to his heroes, including guitarists Chuck Berry, Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana.
In sum, Bruno Mars comes across like the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame all rolled into a compact body in a sports-uniform top, track pants and Nike sneakers — a down-to-earth outfit for a man named Mars.