I Have Been to the Moonshine Jungle...
And I want nothing but to go back.
Bruno Mars at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia: June 24, 2013
So wow, my experience last night was nothing short of incredible and is something I will remember for a lifetime. It’s so hard to put it into words. Let me start by saying that prior to the beginning of my obsession with Bruno, I generally listened to indie music, classic rock, and rarely turned on the radio. Of course I loved Bruno’s hits from Doo-Wops and Hooligans, but I was just a passive listener. When I heard Locked Out of Heaven in October, I was so shocked to learn that this was a song taking the radio/“mainstream” music by storm; it’s so unlike anything any other pop artist would do. I flat out got hooked after learning what Bruno was all about through tumblr and interviews, and before I knew it I was a full fledged Hooligan (if you don’t believe me, just ask my friends). Bruno Mars is the real deal, everyone. He may be a Top 40 artist, but he is of a different caliber and type of showman than anyone else out there today. Last night only reaffirmed that belief of mine…
So, onto the show, which was my first Bruno Mars concert. I got to the venue around 4:30 to do some scoping around the tour buses and whatnot. Unfortunately, they were parked down below from the main level, so you could only see what was going on from above. I saw Dre and Ryan right as I got to the fence and there were a few people there screaming at them, but then a guy came along to tell us to move away. So I went to get some merch (two posters and a gorilla, $50 ugh-but so worth it) and then headed to a bar/food area to wait until 6:30 when the doors opened. While I was sitting around, Ryan just walks by me with a camera… And then did it again 10 minutes later. I said hi and he waved and smiled, but I didn’t want to bother him to take a picture.
I had decent seats, pretty dead center but 5 rows up from the floor in the lower bowl. Unfortunately, my camera sucks so I wasn’t able to get too many good pictures and I didn’t take any videos (thank god for tumblr/youtube which take care of both!). After Fitz & the Tantrums performed (they weren’t half bad- the audience wasn’t really into it though, poor guys), that golden-palm tree curtain just falls down over the stage and my heart dropped. About 30 minutes later the lights went down…
Let me tell you that the opening to the show builds so much anticipation. There’s monkey howls, heavy drum/congo pounding, bright lights flashing behind the awesome curtain, and that “Welcome to the Moonshine-shine-shine-shine” bit which finished with “JUNGLE” and the curtain falling to reveal Bruno and the Hooligans. It was incredibly exciting.
Moonshine opens the show. It has some awesome bird visuals on the screen in the background but Bruno’s energy takes full attention. Natalie is up next, which also has some cool video stuff to go along with it (a girl swallowing fire) and of course the Hooligans all do the awesome dance/choreography thing. When the song finished, Bruno talked to the crowd a bit, of course doing his usual reminder to put down our cameras/phones and to dance and have an awesome time. I love that.
And dance we did, because Treasure was up in the set. Treasure is exactly what we’ve seen Bruno doing during the promo runs, but it’s even more amazing to experience it for yourself in person because it’s such a fun song. This time the screen was split in 3 old TV looking shapes and the video quality was filtered to look like it does in the music video: old and grainy.
Money/Billionaire/I Need a Dollar was super fun. The whole crowd was singing along and I absolutely love the guitar solo Bruno does before he feeds into Billionaire. Seeing the whole crowd doing the arm-bob move was also awesome.
Show Me/Our First Time come next. This was one of my favorite parts of the show, for obvious reasons of course. Show Me is super reggae with the new beginning Bruno came up with for the tour and the red, yellow, and green visuals complete that vibe. But when Bruno started getting into Our First Time, sex just seeped through the crowd. I’ve watched live videos of OFT, but seeing it with my own eyes and being there was so amazing because of the atmosphere. The thrusting and moves were on point and it drove me insane. I heard the woman behind me say how it’s incredible how Bruno can keep himself composed while doing all that up on stage. When he covered Pony I was so happy since that’s one of my favorite Bruno covers. Oh, and since I was far away I watched Bruno the entire time through binoculars… yeah…
Marry You is an awesome, energetic song. I love Bruno’s/Phred’s guitar solo/duet in this one too and of course the side-to-side arm waving of the crowd. There were also these cool zig-zag drop down lights that came out at this part of the show.
Bruno prefaced If I Knew/It Will Rain mashup with how he has a doo-wop background. I love his vocals in this song live and I love the incorporation of IWR.
At the end of If I Knew and before Runaway Baby, Bruno and the Hooligans did their pick-up line bit with a girl named Melanie (Bruno asking her “Whassup baby squirrel?”). It was hilarious. Bruno called himself “the dude on the ticket” and pointed at himself on all the screens and I love the guys and the stuff they came up with.
Runaway Baby live is as amazing and perfect as it was on the 2012 Grammys (minus the split of course). I love his James Brown dance and the way he uses the megaphone.
For Young Girls, Bruno brings out his acoustic guitar and the disco ball gets lowered down to set the mood. The screens turn to black and white and I also love how he adds the line or two from Girls Just Want to Have Fun-just a nice little detail.
When I Was Your Man was so emotional and breathtaking. Bruno was his usual sappy self and was perfect with every note. The most amazing part was hearing the audience sing every word with him. I feel the most rewarding and grounding thing about being an artist is hearing an arena full of people (and not just one arena-every one you perform at) sing back every lyric to the songs you write, and WIWYM is one of the songs you can hear that the clearest. It was so cool to be a part of.
Grenade is prefaced by an amazing piano solo by John (or as they refer to him “Judge”) Fossit; he’s super talented (well, all of the Hooligans are of course). Everybody loves Grenade, it’s just an awesome and unique song that shouts Bruno Mars with every note and it’s an obvious favorite. He had some visuals from the music video on the screen which was cool too.
Just the Way You Are finished out the set prior to the encore and this was also a song that I’ve seen so many youtube videos of, but to be there in person is something else. Before starting, Bruno said his goodbyes and introduced everyone in the band, complete with their old-school nicknames (except for Phil-what a loser). This song obviously holds a special place in Bruno’s and everyone’s hearts and the audience is so into it and excited by it. I love the sing along part and Bruno’s beautiful, big fat smile during the whole thing.
After Bruno and the Hooligans left the stage, the crowd was just roaring for the encore. It was deafening and incredible at the same time. Everybody wanted more.
Then the lights started going crazy and the Locked Out of Heaven “dep-dep-dep-dep-dep…” comes on and Bruno shows up on a drum set raised up at center stage in his palm tree shirt. Now I know Bruno is an amazing drummer but I was not expecting this at all and I was so incredibly excited to see this. His drum solo was amazing and it shocked the entire audience. Locked Out of Heaven was flat out electric and everybody was dancing and singing. There were confetti cannons that shot out gold confetti which made the arena look awesome. I just love this song and the performance of it so much.
And then Gorilla happened. This was the most incredible thing I have ever experienced with live music and it will stick with me for my entire life. Gorilla was by far my favorite song off Unorthodox Jukebox from the first listen and I’ve been dying to see what Bruno would do with it live. Everything was perfect (minus the stupid technical difficulties, but it didn’t even matter). My expectations were beyond exceeded. Bruno truly took his time planning out every minute detail of the live production of this song (and every other song too, but Gorilla is just something else). The beginning is awesome with the first few seconds of the song playing to Darwinian evolution images then repeating over and over after being stopped by Gorilla shrieks. Then Bruno just sings the everliving shit out of this song and it’s so plain to see it’s his favorite. He hits every note perfectly while images of flying over a jungle play behind him to set the mood right. And when he hits the chorus, the pyrotechnics just wow everyone in the building. He hits every falsetto when the time comes and my mouth is just on the floor because of what’s happening in front of me. Then the song breaks down, which is super sexy, as Bruno is up on the raised platform. As the song comes to a close, Bruno slowly goes down under the stage and the show comes to a close. I was blown away by the whole thing, really. Fucking. Epic.
The Moonshine Jungle Tour is a live performance on a whole different level. It was the most amazing experience from start to finish. Everything was perfect: the vocals, the band, the lights, the visuals, the crowd. Let me just applaud the crowd really quickly, because this is not the same stoic, not-necessarily-Bruno fans we’ve seen during promo and private gigs leading up to the tour. Everyone was loud and into it, even though I did see a sea of camera/phone lights recording in front of me-sorry Bruno, you’ll never get that wish. Bruno has perfected his craft and poured his heart and soul into everything he does and you see it plain and simple on this tour. With this show Bruno has put together, fan or not, hell you can even hate Bruno Mars, I don’t see how you wouldn’t be amazed. Everything about it is breathtaking, shocking, and everything you could ever want from live music. This is truly a tour for the history books.
After the show, I couldn’t just go home so I went back to the fence by the buses. One by one, the band trickled out. Phred was first and he came out strumming an acoustic guitar; I screamed out “I love you Phred” as he got on the bus and he waved. Kameron, James, and John came out next and waved at everyone. Kameron talked to us a little bit. Jamareo had his huge smile plastered on his face as usual and waved as I screamed out his name. Dwayne and Eric didn’t do anything too exciting, but it was still awesome to see them. Then Phil came out. He just seems like an awesome guy and he crouched down and did a lasso spinning thing and returned everyone’s “I love yous.” Of course Bruno Mars himself came out last with Dre and Jessica walking in front of them. I got the worst pictures possible but it was worth waiting to see him come out, wave at us to thank us, and leave on to the next city to be taken to the Moonshine Jungle.
This was such a memorable night and I will forever want to relive the Moonshine Jungle. It was an amazing experience and I love Bruno Mars and respect him so much. I shouldn’t get too sappy though, I get to do it all over again next week in Newark…