Concert review

Pop superstar Bruno Mars declares his love for Tel Aviv in first-ever Israel show

Singing ‘I love you’ in Hebrew and with his keyboardist playing a classic Israeli children’s song, singer gives a show to remember to more than 60,000 Israeli fans

Amy Spiro is a reporter and writer with The Times of Israel

Pop singer Bruno Mars performs at Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv on October 4, 2023. (David Granot)
Pop singer Bruno Mars performs at Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv on October 4, 2023. (David Granot)

Pop superstar Bruno Mars showed off his “24K Magic” in Tel Aviv on Wednesday night in his first of two sold-out shows in Israel.

“Tel Aviv!” he shouted out to the exuberant crowd of more than 60,000 packed into Yarkon Park to see the performer’s first-ever show in the Jewish state. “The Hooligans [his band] have made it to Israel.”

“We’ve heard stories about this place, we heard that you sweat and we heard that you dance… we’ve been waiting a long time to play for you,” he declared.

The 37-year-old native of Hawaii has enjoyed close to 15 years of success with a long list of hit songs, 15 Grammy Awards and numerous other records and achievements. His mother is Filipino and his father is half-Puerto Rican and half Jewish.

Without flagging for a minute — save a few towel wipe-downs of his correctly predicted sweat — Mars powered through hit after hit, enchanting the diverse crowd gathered in Tel Aviv during the Sukkot holiday.

He kicked things off with his hit “24K Magic,” as golden fireworks soared over the stage, before he transitioned into “Finesse” and then “Treasure,” as the rapt audience members sang along to every word.

Pop singer Bruno Mars performs at Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv on October 4, 2023. (David Granot)

The crowd cheered and screamed as the pop star showed off just how much research he’d conducted before arriving in Israel.

Not content with just a “shalom,” Mars infused the show with shoutouts to the local crowd, most prominently in “Calling All My Lovelies,” when he not just said but sang “Ani Ohev Otach” (I love you) as the fans went wild. It may be a trick he brings out in almost every country he visits, but the crowd could not get enough of it.

Alternating between strumming guitar, playing piano and showcasing his impressive dance moves, Mars delivered everything the audience was looking for, working his way through “That’s What I Like,” “Versace on the Floor,” “It Will Rain” and an exuberant version of “Marry You.”

Mars probably didn’t switch out that song’s lyrics “dancing shoes” with “dancing Jews” (only he knows for sure, since they sound interchangeable) but he did declare “Tel Aviv, I think I want to marry you!” as the crowd once again roared.

Pop singer Bruno Mars performs at Yarkon Park in Tel Aviv on October 4, 2023. (David Granot)

Sitting at the piano, he played brief versions of some of his big hits, including “Grenade,” “Talking to the Moon” and “Nothin’ On You” — even joking with the audience that the smoke machine accompanying him “cost me 15,000 shekels right there.”

The biggest surprise of the night came toward the end of the evening, when Mars took a brief break offstage and his keyboardist, John Fossit, played an instrumental version of the very timely classic Israeli children’s song, “Shlomit Bona Sukkah,” (Shlomit builds a sukkah) by Naomi Shemer, as the surprised and delighted crowd sang along.

Mars closed out the show with powerful renditions of “Locked Out of Heaven” and “Just the Way You Are,” with an encore of his smash hit “Uptown Funk.”

“I apologize it took us so long to get here,” he told the crowd toward the end of the show. “We hope to come back very, very soon.”

In the meantime, those with tickets to his Saturday night show have a great deal to look forward to.

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