The frenzy surrounding the arrival of the American pop star Bruno Mars in Israel was justified and his performance was unlike any seen in Yarkon Park in recent years. Mars sold his shows faster than a sale of three pretzels for 10 shekels at the arena grounds.
Mars arrived in Israel for the first time after a rather busy summer. His tour took him through South and Central America and after a stop in Georgia he arrived in Tel Aviv before going on to other countries in Asia.
Even though he's been in the mainstream since 2010, he's still riding the terrifying surges of well-deserved fame thanks to his terrific showmanship as the tens of thousands of fans who left the park on Wednesday with a smile from ear to ear, humming the songs to themselves, will testify.
Mars came in hot, equipped with tons of charisma, moving to the beat, with enviable vocals and an arsenal of songs that every pop star can only dream of. He opened his first show out of two on Wednesday with the mighty 24K Magic which was released seven years ago but sounds fresh as if it was on last week's charts. His exuberant gang of dancers - The Hooligans - jumped and moved to the beat, as frequent bursts of fireworks lit up the night sky.
But it's not just the power of the excessive pyrotechnics that adorned the show, it's mainly Mars' repertoire of hits. From his early releases, through the crushing ballads along the way to his reinvention on his latest album 'An Evening With Silk Sonic' and his brilliant collaboration with musician Anderson Paak that came out about two years ago. It is a shame that this setlist found little room to perform a bit from Leave the Door Open, but that has left an appetite for more in the future. Either way, this show's diverse musical choices were well-known to the listeners.
Next, he sang Finesse (also originally performed with the rapper Cardi B) and the beloved Treasure. The singer joked with the crowd, trying to please the 63,000 people who came to see him and made sure to shout out "Tel Aviv" several times throughout the performance.
The dance segments and group choreography looked effortless and elicited screams of enthusiasm. Mars was the current mainstream champion, that's clear. But there is little doubt that the same success would have been possible had he been performing in the last century, as well.
That's how it is when you're a charmer, who as a child, performed as an Elvis impersonator. In fact, what Mars did on stage in Tel Aviv was quite similar to what he had always done, groove like Elvis and the sixties rock 'n' roll stars. His footwork could knock tens of thousands off their feet, or at least make them dance madly.
Mars' singing was amazing and he proved to be an excellent showman even in a live performance. The Hooligans behind him added to the sound, and as the crowd went wild, there was nothing he would not have been able to do. In Liquor Store Blues he grabbed the guitar, and played an electrifying solo and from there, a rendition of Billionaire, one of the songs that had launched his career and brought him this far.
Before the crowd had time to catch their breath and prepare for the next hit, Mars pulled a surprise out of the hat and sang Calling All My Lovelies, calling out in Hebrew: "Hello Mami, It's Me. Habibi Bruno!" and "I love you!" Again and again.
Israel received special attention at this event, with the keyboardist's solo being entirely devoted to an instrumental performance of "Shlomit Bona Sukkah". Who would have believed that the holiday song was so popular?
The highlight of the evening for many in the audience was the sequence that included It Will Rain on the electric guitar, and Marry You, liked by fans but maybe less by Mars. The perfect performance he gave to Versace on the Floor left no one indifferent.
One of the best parts of the show was when Mars was alone on stage, on the keyboard, playing a sequence of songs he co-wrote: Fuck You by C.L. Green, Young Wild and Free originally performed with Wiz Khalifa and even Grenade - songs from the mainstream of the mainstream. It was hard not to join in and sing along.
Those who hadnot yet surrendered to his unique power must have fallen in love with Mars somewhere during the last three songs. There didn't seem to be a single person in the audience who didn't sing along to When I Was Your Man, which was even reworked in the contemporary version of Miley Cyrus singing Flower. Eyes lit up with a performance of Locked Out of Heaven.
He ended the show with another sugar bomb from early in his career, Just the Way You Are, but after he and his excellent band said goodbye after returning for an encore - all is forgiven.
Mars gave his all to the Israeli audience, with impressive vocal performances, tight movements and charisma that cannot be learned in any music school, the same 10-year-old boy who performed as an Elvis impersonator, has over the years become a rock 'n' roll star himself.
At the end of an hour and 40 minutes, Mars scorched the Yarkon Park stage. Hopefully, he will do the same on Saturday in his second, soldout concert.