By Scott T. Sterling
Pop superstars Bruno Mars, Ariana Grande and a surprise appearance by the Backstreet Boys thrilled a sold out crowd at L.A.’s legendary Hollywood Bowl, and it was all for an extremely worthy cause.
CBS Radio and the Young Survival Coalition united to present the fourth annual We Can Survive benefit concert, an annual event designed to bring attention to Breast Cancer Awareness Month. The star-studded lineup also included OneRepublic, Pitbull, Meghan Trainor, G-Eazy and Charlie Puth.
The show’s cause was front and center throughout the night, with breast cancer survivors taking the stage with AMP Radio (a CBS Radio station) on-air personalities to introduce each act.
Mars headlined the show with his ace band, the Hooligans, hitting the stage to his recently Diamond-certified monster hit with Mark Ronson, “Uptown Funk.”
Mars stormed through smash singles like “Billionaire” (prefaced with a cover of Barrett Strong’s classic “Money (That’s What I Want)”) and “Just the Way You Are.” Mars has a highly stylized show that paid homage to James Brown’s immense influence on his music, and the singer proved to be every bit the consummate showman that we saw at his pair of Super Bowl halftime performances in 2014 and 2016.
He capped his set with a frenetic take on most recent single, “24K Magic” while a flurry of fireworks exploded over the iconic venue.
Mars’ show followed an unexpected cameo from OG boy-band legends the Backstreet Boys, who took the stage without an introduction to “Everybody (Backstreet’s Back).”
The stunned but delighted crowd ate up the throwback hits (and wonderfully retro choreography), as the group took a trip down memory lane with hits including “As Long As You Love Me,” “We’ve Got It Going On” and fan favorite, “I Want it That Way,” which resulted in a huge audience sing-along.
Ariana Grande delivered a polished and well-oiled set that balanced her muscular vocal chops with smooth dance moves set to singles including “Into You” and “Side to Side” before ending on powerhouse rendition of “Dangerous Woman.”
OneRepublic brought the group’s dramatic, piano-powered pop-rock to the proceedings, with sing-along hits like “Apologize,” as well as the bombast of more recent single, “Kids.” The set ended with lead singer Ryan Tedder running deep into the crowd to get up close and personal with the fans.
Mr. Worldwide himself, Pitbull, delivered one of the most high-energy and well-received sets of the night, blasting through instant party-starting tracks like “Fireball,” “Green Light” and “Don’t Stop the Party” surrounded by his cadre of female dancers.
He also brought the only political moment of the show, preaching unity through music while lambasting “these bullsh— presidential elections.”
Meghan Trainor did her part to turn up the party with an upbeat and crowd-pleasing set of girl-power anthems “Me Too,” “No” and “All About That Bass” that clearly connected with the crowd. She also threw a curveball with a faithful rendition of Drake’s hit, “One Dance.”
G-Eazy hit the stage with his slicked-back hip-pop groove, dropping risqué rhymes right in line with his bad-boy image, bringing out singer Bebe Rexha to reprise her feature on his 2015 hit “Me, Myself & I.”
Charlie Puth opened the show with his yearning ballads and formidable piano chops, highlighted by the blue-eyed soul of “Marvin Gaye” and his breakthrough single, “See You Again.”
The show raised money for, and awareness of, the Young Survival Coalition, which provides support and resources for young women diagnosed with breast cancer.