Bruno Mars worried about getting booed at the Apollo:
It doesn’t matter how famous you are or how many hit records you’ve had. If you annoy New Yorkers, they’ll let you know about it.
That’s what Bruno Mars found out firsthand back in September while filming his first television special, “Bruno Mars: 24K Magic Live at the Apollo,” which airs on CBS on Wednesday night at 10 p.m.
Aside from recording an intimate show at the world-famous Apollo Theater, Mars and his band, the Hooligans, also spent time mixing with customers in hair salons, giving out tickets to locals and holding small, impromptu performances on the streets of Harlem.
“We were just out, making music and singing,” Mars tells The Post on the phone from Brazil, where he’s currently on tour. “But we definitely had a couple of people who would hang out of their doors and tell us basically to shut up. It was like ‘Coming to America,’ when Eddie Murphy is singing ‘To Be Loved’ and everyone’s screaming at him, telling him to be quiet!”
‘If you don’t go up there and try to kill it, the audience is gonna kill you.’
Such bad reviews are rare in what’s been a stellar year for the Hawaiian. His third album, “24K Magic,” arrived late last year and has sold the equivalent of more than 2 million copies (combined sales and streams). It’s spawned a No. 1 single (“That’s What I Like”) and, on Tuesday, Mars was nominated for six awards at next year’s Grammys, including Album of the Year, Record of the Year (for “24K Magic”) and Song of the Year (for “That’s What I Like”).
Since first arriving on the scene in 2010 with debut album “Doo-Wops & Hooligans,” the 32-year-old has also built a reputation as one of the best and most reliable live acts on the planet. He’s appeared in two Super Bowl halftime shows: once as a headliner in 2014 and once as a guest of Coldplay and Beyoncé in 2016.
But it’s only now that he feels ready to take on the toughest crowd of all — the notoriously brutal audience at the Apollo, who have collectively booed off would-be stars during “Amateur Night at the Apollo” since 1934. “If you don’t go up there and try to kill it, the audience is gonna kill you,” says Mars.
The appearance is doubly significant for Mars, who is a devotee of James Brown. The funk legend’s 1963 album “Live at the Apollo” is one of the most famous and ferocious performances ever to have taken place in the storied venue. It was Brown’s breakout album and helped immortalize the Apollo Theater. Mars considers that performance and, in particular, Brown’s legendary “T.A.M.I. Show” appearance (recorded in Los Angeles in 1964) to be his “bible.”
“I look at that footage sometimes before I go on TV and before shows,” says Mars. “To me, [“T.A.M.I. Show”] is the most relentless performance taped in history. That’s the mentality I try to keep, whether we’re about to play the Super Bowl or somebody’s wedding.”
Just as “Live at the Apollo” and the “T.A.M.I. Show” captured Brown at his peak for future generations to look back on, the CBS special is likely to do the same for Mars. The “24K Magic” World Tour has drawn rave reviews, thanks to its tightly drilled mix of hits, choreography and high-tech staging.
Mars has also attracted his fair share of celebrity attendees. Dave Chappelle, Michelle Obama and another of Mars’ musical heroes, Stevie Wonder, have all turned out to see the shows. “I don’t think I want to know what Stevie thought,” says Mars. “In my mind, he loved the show — and I’m gonna leave it at that!”
The “24K Magic” World Tour has also cleaned up at the box office: Last month, Live Nation reported the tour had earned more than $129 million. It’s underlined Mars’ status as one of pop’s most highly respected and highly paid acts.
But at the height of success and adulation, Mars took a moment to reflect on life outside the pop-star bubble. This past summer, Mars quietly donated $1 million to help the residents of Flint, Mich., restore clean water to the area. High levels of lead and other toxins have devastated the Midwestern town’s supply.
“That was something that weighed heavy on my heart,” Mars says. “I think with news being so fast these days — after one problem, there’s always another problem, and another one — this disaster in Flint was not being talked about. But it’s affected so many lives, so many businesses. I just didn’t understand why this problem — which is on American soil — wasn’t being fixed. We shouldn’t be talking about anything else. We should get these people what they need.”
Although it’s a subject that Mars feels strongly about, he rarely uses the stage to vocalize his social or political opinions. Ever since he started singing with his family’s band, the Love Notes, as a 5-year-old in Honolulu, Mars has always regarded live performance as a vehicle to forget ills and problems.
“I remember moving to LA [where he has been based since 2003] and being broke, but taking the few dollars I had to Amoeba Records and getting Kanye’s first album, ‘The College Dropout.’ As broke as I was, hearing, [Mars breaks into song] ‘I been workin’ this grave shift, and I ain’t made s – – t/I wish I could buy me a spaceship and fly past the sky’ [from the song ‘Spaceship’], took me out of the problems I had. That’s what good soul music does.”
Mars feels that now, perhaps more than ever, his fans need to feel that same release and escape. “You want to tune out and forget about rent, politics or whatever’s going on with your family or girlfriend — and feel good,” he says. “The goal for me is to get people to put their phones down and dance. That’s what I want.”
And that’s how we like it.