Preview: Bruno Mars makes his debut in Pittsburgh

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Later this week, we'll be talking about how a young Taylor Swift worked her way up slowly playing the bottom of the bill on various tour packages.

Not so, Bruno Mars.

The 27-year-old singer from Honolulu, who did Elvis impersonations as a kid, did get dropped by Motown and struggle behind the scenes as a songwriter. But once people heard his voice, he became a shooting star. When he makes his Pittsburgh debut Tuesday it will be headlining Consol Energy Center to thousands of screaming fans.

Bruno Mars

Where: Consol Energy Center, Downtown.

When: 7:30 p.m. Tuesday.

Tickets: $38-$80;

Those who have bought in won't have to worry about whether he can carry a tune live. He has those classic Motown-style pipes that melt girls' hearts, first heard in a big way in early 2010 singing on B.o.B.'s "Nothin' on You" and Travie McCoy's "Billionaire."

Later that year, he dropped a debut album, "Doo-Wops & Hooligans," with two No. 1 singles that put the soul-drenched vocals at the forefront -- Grammy-winner "Just the Way You Are" and "Grenade" -- and a more chill No. 3 reggae hit "The Lazy Song." He backed it all up with "SNL" and Grammy performances that made him look like the second coming of Sam Cooke.

For an encore, he has slid right past the sophomore slump with "Unorthodox Jukebox." His second album, released in December, topped the charts with the rocker "Locked Out of Heaven" leading the way. That one was a surprising throwback to The Police. "When I Was Your Man" goes back to the piano soul ballad, and "Treasure" grooves like old Kool & the Gang, which explains the "Jukebox" in the album title.

Mars, born Peter Gene Hernandez and nicknamed "Bruno" because his dad thought that he looked like Pittsburgh's own Bruno Sammartino as a toddler, does not want to be pinned down.

"This is me going into the studio and recording and writing whatever I want," he told Billboard. "This album represents my freedom. I've had big record label presidents look me in the face and say, 'Your music [stinks], you don't know who you are, your music is all over the place, and we don't know how to market this stuff. Pick a lane and come back to us.' That was disgusting to me because I'm not trying to be a circus act. I listen to a lot of music, and I want to have the freedom and luxury to walk into a studio and say, 'Today I want to do a hip-hop, R&B, soul or rock record.'"

Look for him to translate that to the stage on this Moonshine Jungle Tour stop. Last week, the Boston Globe praised his "ecstatic approach to performing" and noted the "energy never flagged" during the 90-minute show.

An extra treat here is British indie-pop star Ellie Goulding who has played Coachella and Lollapalooza and has crossed over to hit radio with "Lights," a song that has been floating around since 2011.

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Scott Mervis:; 412-263-2576. First Published July 1, 2013 4:00 AM


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