Four hot nights, four hot tickets. This week Columbus hosts Bruno Mars, Justin Bieber, Natalie Merchant and fun. Here's a primer on what the respective performers have been doing - good and bad - and how their performances have been received on the road.
Four hot nights, four hot tickets.
Key pop, soul, rock and classical shows are on deck this week in central Ohio.
Need the scoop? Or just the dirt? Allow our not-so-secret obsessions to assist you.
Here’s a primer on what the respective performers have been doing — good and bad — and how their performances have been received on the road.
. . .Bruno Mars
Show: 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Value City Arena, W. Lane Avenue and Olentangy River Road; ticket availability limited
Fan base: ladies of all ages, dudes who like high-quality pop hooks
Dress code: eccentric hats, animal-print fabrics, vintage blazers, assorted chunky bling
Details: The fedora-sporting Hawaiian and relative newcomer skyrocketed into the Top 40 orbit with his soul-tinged funky pop.
Mars — whose 2010 debut single, Just the Way You Are, hit No. 1 — had already made a name for himself as a songwriter with contributions to tracks by B.o.B, Flo Rida and Travie McCoy. Cementing his status is the sophomore album Unorthodox Jukebox, a mix of rock, disco and R&B. The lead single, Locked Out of Heaven, suggests an odd influence: Sting and the Police.
In concert, the 27-year-old is known to dice and heavily rework radio material — aided by a brassy, high-octane sextet known as the Hooligans, with whom he strolled the Victoria’s Secret runway on television in December.
A Saturday Night Live debut in the fall found the entertainer doing double duty as host and musical guest (a sketch in which he played a hustling intern for the Pandora music application was memorable). Mars’ real-life “Moonshine Jungle” tour is also intense: It spans a whopping 87 dates.
Personal tragedy struck on June 1, when his mother, Bernadette Hernandez, died of a brain aneurysm at age 55.
Yet he is carrying on: Billboard praised how Mars’ show “expertly caters to his older and younger demographics.” A Washington Post critic called him “a man poised to spend his summer winning over the planet.”
. . .Justin Bieber
Show: 7 p.m. Friday, Nationwide Arena, 200 W. Nationwide Blvd.; ticket availability limited
Fan base: tweeting tweens, sneaker-heads, So You Think You Can Dance loyalists, romantics who prefer that their man begin a dialogue with “Hey, girl”
Dress code: swag not limited to purple hoodies, skinny jeans, ball caps worn backward and any and all puff-painted declarations of love
Details: Has it really been almost three years since the pint-size teen performed at Value City Arena, riding high across the capacity crowd in a steel-cage heart?
The Biebs has since done some growing up, expanding his discography (an acoustic version of his 2012 album, Believe, was shoehorned onto shelves in January); his wild entourage (namely a since- abandoned pet capuchin monkey, Mally); and his tattoo collection (a knight in armor numbers among the latest inkings).
And — OMG! — losing his shirt: A video clip that featured the Canadian’s bare torso set the blogosphere into virtual squeals — and the rest of us committing to a few crunches.
Bieber, 19, has also had numerous run-ins with paparazzi. German officials wouldn’t allow his monkey to enter the country without paperwork. He was rushed by a fan onstage in Dubai. More peculiar, the star was lambasted after writing that Anne Frank would have been a fan in a guest book at the Holocaust victim’s namesake Amsterdam museum.
Modesty hasn’t resulted. In fact, Bieber descends from the rafters on his latest live go-round wearing ginormous silver wings in what a Salt Lake Tribune critic called a tinnitus-inducing, “gleefully over-the-top” spectacle.
But can he keep pace with One Direction? Beliebers will wait with bated breath.
. . .Natalie Merchant
Show: 8 p.m. Saturday, Columbus Commons, E. Rich and S. High streets; ticket availability good
Fan base: al-fresco symphony fans, academics whose graduate theses dissected classic literary figures, vegetarians, people who remember MTV Unplugged
Dress code: cool, comfortable, cruelty-free textiles; hippie or baroque-style accents
Details: The former 10,000 Maniacs frontwoman has stayed out of the limelight for the past decade, focusing on motherhood and environmental advocacy (she’s a vocal opponent of fracking).
Merchant hasn’t opted to fit a modern commercial mold, either. Her most recent album, Leave Your Sleep (2010), was an ambitious project featuring 26 adaptations of decades-old poetry — not exactly VH1 material.
Likewise, the long-independent singer rejected her label’s advance to instead craft the 1995 solo debut, Tigerlily, on her own terms. Although the album — featuring the singles Carnival and Wonder — was a hit, her later work was bypassed by radio. Since 2008, when the Boston Pops told Merchant that it would supply ensemble charts in exchange for a lower participation fee, she has toured only under such a setup — as with her upcoming Columbus Symphony gig.
Critical reception has been mixed: The Guardian of London deemed the hybrid singer “in her prime.” A Dallas critic cited an excess of “mopey ballads” and said the show’s “sameness” was “suffocating.”
In either case, Merchant’s distinctive voice seems perfectly suited to a backing suite of strings. Here’s hoping These Are Days and Kind & Generous remain in the mix.
. . .fun.
Show: gates open at 7?p.m. next Sunday, Lifestyle Communities Pavilion, 405 Neil Ave.; sold out, but scalpers expected to be hovering
Fan base: notebook scribblers, fist pumpers, optimistic dreamers, Lena Dunham devotees
Dress code: purposely ugly glasses (prescription or otherwise), T-shirts with ironic sayings, artful tattoos with deep/not-deep meanings, comfortable shoes for parking-lot standing
Details: The New York pop-rock trio — lowercase “f,” please, and don’t forget the period — packed the 2,200-capacity Lifestyle Communities Pavilion indoor stage in April 2012.
Since then, its squeaky-voiced singalong anthems full of hand claps, pounding pianos and multi-octave reachings of whoooaahs have propelled the band into an echelon too big even for the pavilion’s lawn space.
Instead, the venue will outfit its parking lot with a temporary stage. At 10,000 people, the asphalt space accommodates twice as many as the adjacent grassy slope. That’s a lot of room for fun.
Appropriate, too: Such music is meant to be enjoyed by the masses, even if its sonic flaws — groan-inducing lyrics and frontman Nate Ruess’ gratuitous, borderline-criminal use of Auto-Tune among them — are more evident in a live setting. (“Everyone can see our faces, and we are not very young,” Ruess cracked at the 2012 Grammy Awards.)
But who could argue with the shared experience of hearing the band’s bombastic, Queen-esque anthem We Are Young in the company of countless others? The song is still “greeted with boy-band-level hysteria,” according to a Pittsburgh Post-Gazette review.
The Canadian sisterly pop duo Tegan and Sara (Closer) will open the show, offering listeners more bang for their buck.