Has any pop star in recent memory been as hard to pin down as Bruno Mars? On last year’s Unorthodox Jukebox, the guy did everything — emotional piano ballads, resplendent Police rip-offs, groovy dance pop in the Michael Jackson lineage, percussive post-Timbaland synthetic soul, shimmering gentrified reggae in the Maroon 5 vein (and I don’t mean that as an insult; “One More Night” is the jam).
So the Jukebox part is right-on; Unorthodox, not so much. Mars is a traditionalist with deep respect for the history of pop, and his music is straight-laced digitized sound built for 2013 radio domination. On Twitter, SPIN’s Christopher Weingarten called Mars’ live production “the most rockist pop show I've ever seen” and implied that music geeks would dig it.
Adding to the appeal of Wednesday’s show at the Schott is opener Ellie Goulding, a British pop star in the process of crossing over stateside. Her singles frame her glorious pipes in robotic sheen, but on stage she is a warm-blooded pop star with almost as much range as Mars. —Chris DeVille