Bruno Mars Proud to be Pinoy

MANILA, Philippines – The Bruno Mars concert, April 8, was what many expected: A hit-laden set that allowed for hearty sing-along for all.

The show started way beyond the time listed on the tickets but it didn’t bother the huge crowd that gathered. Everyone seemed only too busy ogling the great number of celebrities who trooped to the venue.

“Uy, sino ‘yung kasama ni Richard [Gutierrez]?” whispered one intrepid concert-goer.

“Ay, ang pogi ni James [Yap],” shrieked another.

Noticeable as well is the good number of kids who came to the venue sporting the Bruno Mars look replete with Fedora and 50’s styled glasses.

As the lights dimmed, everybody focused their eyes on stage, yelling in unison as the star of the night appeared. Decked in a simple checkered shirt, red pants and, yes, the trademark Fedora, Bruno Mars casually walked towards the drum set and started pounding away. The crowd roared in approval.

The experienced performer that he is, Mars didn’t let go of that hold, as he quickly stood up, grabbed an electric guitar and started the parade of hits with the excellent “The Other Side,” from his EP, “It’s Better If You Don’t Understand.” The song proved a great choice as a starter as it allowed Mars to stretch vocally, warming himself up for what apparently turned out to be a fast, frantic set that, surprisingly, included a great number of rocking tunes (and we thought Mars was just another Jason Mraz).

Razing that notion further is another uptempo song from the same EP, “Top Of The World,” with Mars scratching some funky riffs on his sick green electric guitar. At that point, he started bantering with the crowd, egging them to sing part of the song. Everyone obliged, naturally.

Prior to doing a cover of the classic “Money (That’s What I Want),” Mars explained that the song inspired him to write the hit, “Billionaire,” popularized by Travie McCoy. He and his band then performed the songs, one after the other, with the latter starting another mad sing-along.

In the front pews, soon-to-be billionaire Boy Abunda (one of the celebrity producers of the show alongside friends Marvin Agustin and Kris Aquino) was seen scanning the humongous crowd that gathered, grinning from ear to ear.

Mars continued to push the crowd’s palpable liveliness on the next number, which at the onset had us thinking that he’d be doing a straight cover of the Nirvana hit, “Smells Like Teen Spirit.” But he turned the song all around singing lyrics of Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean” instead-a throwback to his teen years, which Mars admitted he spent aping the King of Pop. He also injected snippets of the White Stripe’s “Seven Nation Army” for full measure.

Without skipping a beat, Mars followed it up with a slightly speedier version of “Marry You,” from “Doo-wops and Hooligans.” With lyrics the crowd only knew too well, a thousand voices began to drown Mars’ own.

The sing-along continued with the “Lazy Song,” as cellphone cams continued to flash all around.

Mars slowed things up a bit with “Count On Me,” grabbing a smallish guitar and strumming ever so quietly, his voice sounding very much like how it was on the recorded version. But the crowd just won’t let him sing the song by his lonesome. Not that the singer minded. At one point he simply closed his eyes, seemingly enjoying hearing his audience.

During the song, some couples in the audience started to kiss, hug and sway as one. Men who came in solo could only stare at actress Ruffa Gutierrez and her very, very tight jeans, wishing they could hug her instead.

Just before everything settled down into a syrupy love-fest of sorts, Mars pulls everyone back up again with the groovy reggae tinged “Liquor Store Blues,” which he originally performed on record with Bob Marley’s son, Damian. And the dancing continued.

Mars then segued into another crowd favorite, “Nothin’ on You,” which he dedicated to “all beautiful Filipinas.”

Though already visibly tired and sweaty Mars performed his current single, “Grenade,” which he described as his “favorite song,” with much gusto-as if the concert was just starting.

After the song, he asked the crowd if he could sing another song-of course nobody said no and everyone screamed for the much-awaited, “Just the Way You Are”-his biggest hit to date for which he also scored a Best Male Vocal Performance Grammy award. Once again couples were seen singing the song to each other.

In the middle of it all, Mars thanked the crowd and acknowledged some of his relatives who came, including an aunt and an uncle. It was then that he made mention of his Filipino roots, which the crowd acknowledged with a bellow of support.