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Bruno Mars' Super Bowl halftime show fun, but flawed

Bruno Mars, left, and the Red Hot Chili

Bruno Mars, left, and the Red Hot Chili Peppers perform during the Super Bowl XLVIII halftime show on Sunday, Feb. 2, 2014. Credit: AP / Evan Vucci

Bruno Mars needed his extraordinary charm and some fancy James Brown-inspired footwork to save his Super Bowl XLVIII Halftime Show from its flawed structure.

Bands don't normally open with drum solos. They don't generally try to slam two wildly different styles together in a short period of time. And Mars' set showed why.

It was as if Mars were digging himself a hole so that he could dig himself out, rather than simply putting his best foot forward. After all, the youngest-ever Halftime Show headliner wasn't exactly overflowing with Super Bowl-appropriate hits to play in the first place. He couldn't do his smash ballad, "When I Was Your Man," because it's too slow and his hits "Grenade" and "Gorilla" aren't exactly family-friendly.

But it still could have turned out well. His moving finale of "Just the Way You Are," which served as a backdrop for dedications from military personnel stationed abroad to their families, would have served as a wonderful opener. The disco-era delight, "Treasure," which is a thriller in concert, could have played out much better if the band had the time to get into its usual soul-band formation during the groove-heavy breakdown. But the song got shortened, presumably to make way for Mars' extended drum solo to open "Locked Out of Heaven."

Then, just as Mars and his band, The Hooligans, were building momentum during a beefed-up "Runaway Baby," which segued nicely into the Isley Brothers' "Shout" and some nifty James Brown-like splits, they yielded to the Red Hot Chili Peppers for "Give It Away." And the Peppers, veterans of stadium spectacles of their own, kind of trumped Mars with the song's massiveness.

The pacing seemed weak, especially considering how smoothly the musical performances had gone during the rest of the Super Bowl. Renee Fleming, the first opera singer ever to tackle the national anthem at the Super Bowl, was stunning, powerfully hitting the highest notes with ease. Queen Latifah's version of "America the Beautiful" was wonderfully understated.

Mars is certainly a star, but his show didn't shine as brightly as it should have.


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