Bruno Mars delivered a scintillating set to close the 30th anniversary of the Rock In Rio USA festival in Las Vegas over the weekend.
Headliners No Doubt, Metallica and Taylor Swift were all impressive in their respective starring roles at the top of the bill, though it was Mars and his band, The Smeezingtons, who sparkled brightest with an energetic set that lit up the Vegas sky and sent festivalgoers home happy.
Mars emerged on the stage at 11:36pm with a wicked drum solo that set the tone for the night. Dressed in his trademark fedora with a half-buttoned shirt, black slacks and accessorized with gold chains, the 29-year-old resembled a diet version of Scarface’s Tony Montana as fans roared in approval. And, on this night, the world was certainly his.
A rousing performance of his 2012 single “Locked Out Of Heaven” kicked off his two hour set as The Hooligans joined him for a wonderful romp of dance moves that have become customary at a Bruno Mars show. Pyro fired from the stage as the 2014 Billboard artist of the year rolled into “Natalie” and continued to look like he was having more fun than anyone watching.
After shouting out some of the festival’s other performers, Mars turned the attention back to himself. “No you gotta deal with that motherf—er Bruno Mars right quick,” the two-time Grammy Award winner boasted before continuing his explosive performance with his bag of hits that included “Treasure,” “Money Make Her Smile” and “Billionaire.”
Always the entertainer, Mars kept the crowd rocking with rousing renditions of other R&B classics including R. Kelly’s “Ignition” and Ginuwine’s “Pony” before wistfully gliding into a smooth string of ballads that featured an acoustic performance of “Nothing On You” and a dreamy version of “Just the Way You Are.”
It could have ended there as Mars and his band disappeared backstage. But the party wasn’t going to end without performing his hit single “Uptown Funk” and Mars returned to deliver the Mark Ronson produced jam, complete with Mars’ trademark moves that helped push the video to over 600,000,000 views on YouTube in five months. Mars then put the exclamation point on his set with the 1980s arena rock influenced smash “Gorilla” as another round of fireworks exploded into the Vegas night and closed the show.
It was an impressive Saturday that also featured stellar performances from Joss Stone, Big Sean, Empire of the Sun and John Legend. Stone was exceptional as the singer oozed soul into her set that captivated with vibrant renditions of “Some Kinda Wonderful” and “Love Me.” As the only rapper in the festival, Big Sean made sure to have a lasting impact as he tore through an entertaining stream of hits that included his “My Last” and the breakup anthem “IDFWU.” Empire of the Sun put together an extravagant glam rock exhibition as Luke Steele and his band sizzled with a string of sparkling hits such as “Walking On A Dream” and “Tiger By My Side” that ended with Steele spiking his guitar into the ground and smashing it into pieces much to the delight of the crowd.
John Legend injected love across the 40 acres of land with a soothing session of songs that had the lovebirds in the crowd canoodling. Legend, who performed much of his set from behind the microphone instead of seated at the piano, effortlessly grooved through his decade plus bag of songs that included “Ordinary People” and a brilliant acoustic guitar version of “Save Room” before capping off his set with “Glory,” the Golden Globe winner for best original song, and setting up the crowd for Bruno Mars to bowl a strike.
More than 172,000 attendees visited the Rock in Rio USA Festival sites over the course of two weekends. The fest’s stateside debut was an excellent one that delivered on all fronts. And for it to be the 30th anniversary of the festival that started in Rio de Janeiro with headliners Queen, AC/DC and George Benson, it was the proper way to celebrate three decades of one of the world’s largest music festivals.