Super Bowl veteran Bruno Mars was joined by halftime-sidestepper Cardi B for a lively, crowd-pleasing show on the eve of the big game in Atlanta as energy builds through the weekend.
With ticket prices starting at $200, the concert attracted well-heeled locals and visitors in town for the Super Bowl -- but may have been out of reach for some fans and younger concert-goers.
Bruno Mars, who headlined the Super Bowl halftime show in 2014 and appeared with Coldplay and Beyonce in 2016, was the highlight of the evening at State Farm Arena on Saturday with the hits, dancing and performance flair that have made him enormously popular.
Atlanta rapper Lil Jon made a surprise appearance opening the show -- his second time on the stage during the three-night Super Bowl Music Fest, after joining Ludacris, Young Jeezy, T.I. and others on Thursday night.
New York rapper Cardi B made headlines Friday with news that she turned down an offer to perform at the Super Bowl, as reported by the Associated Press. She told AP she had “mixed feelings” but she felt obligated to “stand behind” ex-NFL player Colin Kaepernick because he “stood up” for minorities.
She also told AP her husband, Migos rapper Offset, loves football and “but he can’t go to the Super Bowl, because he’s got to stand for something.”
“I got to sacrifice a lot of money to perform. But there’s a man who sacrificed his job for us, so we got to stand behind him,” AP quoted Cardi B as saying. In response to criticism of her decision to perform at events leading up to the Super Bowl, she told AP “well, if the NFL could benefit off from us, then I’m going to benefit off y’all. Y’all make the most money off our people. Why am I not going to take advantage of y’all and take money from y’all too?”
On Saturday, Cardi B took the stage after a whirlwind of events in Atlanta, including a performance at a Fanatics party at the College Football Hall of Fame, where she danced with Patriots owner Robert Kraft.
Cardi B took the stage in a hot-pink two-piece ensemble topped with a matching pink fringed leather jacket, backed by gold-clad dancers and her touring DJ.
She quickly launched a fast-paced sampling of songs ranging from “Money Bag” to “I Like It” to “Be Careful.”
In a nod to the Super Bowl halftime show, she asked the audience to “make some noise if you’re excited to see Maroon 5 tomorrow” -- to some cheers -- before a rendition of the Maroon 5-Cardi B song “Girls Like You.” Cardi B closed with audience favorite “Bodak Yellow.”
Chris Danielson, in town for the Super Bowl from Ottawa, Canada, said he decided the day of the concert to buy tickets from the box office and said he didn’t even know Cardi B would be performing.
“Just something to do,” Danielson said. “I’m into hip-hop.”
Much of the audience was eagerly anticipating headliner Bruno Mars, who entered the stage after 11 p.m.
Joined by his band The Hooligans and clad in track suits, songs like “24K Magic” were punctuated with periodic on-stage fireworks.
With full showmanship on display, Mars employed his trademark moves like sliding across the stage with elaborate footwork, emulating James Brown’s dancing and bringing out a megaphone for a portion of “Runaway Baby.”
An arena-wide singalong to “When I Was Your Man” and a shower of gold confetti during “Locked Out of Heaven” built up to the high-energy encore “Uptown Funk” that had fans jumping with arms in the air.
Ultimately, the show brought Cardi B and Bruno Mars back performing on the same ticket, after Cardi B last year canceled plans to tour with Mars after having a baby.
And the pre-game day concert brought another Super Bowl-level performer to Atlanta, in a year when some artists opted out of the game itself.
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