Bruno Mars is going to play a lot of shows before 2017 comes to a close, but odds are good that none of them are going to look or sound as good as his performance at Club Nomadic last Friday. Whatever questions one might have had about the temporary venue from a performance standpoint were answered immediately; the venue may have been a pop-up, but the people behind it were not joking when they said it was going to feature world-class lighting and sound. Watching Mars onstage, it was easy to forget that just months ago the building didn’t exist and seemed almost like a shame that it was going to be gone before too long.
On a pure performance level, it was a complete win. Mars could shine on any stage in any room, but watching him on the Club Nomadic stage was like something out of a movie; the stage might not be enormous in the way that stages inside the Toyota Center, but the massive amount of lighting made the whole thing feel bigger, slicker and more important than it normally would. And with all those lights focused on a man with as much charisma as Mars, there was really no way the show could fail.
More amazing than the performance, however, might be how Club Nomadic managed to be a building in Houston that didn’t feel like Houston at all. It was like stepping through a portal that landed you in a club on one of the coasts, where everyone is well-dressed and the definition of optimism is walking toward the crowded floor triple-fisting drinks because you’re sure everyone will make room for you. Just because the show took place in Houston didn’t make it a Houston show, and that’s OK; that’s obviously what the people behind Club Nomadic and the people sponsoring the shows at the venue were going for. Yes, there were plenty of people from Houston in the room, but there were also tons of folks from around the country looking to have a good time in the city ahead of the big game.
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It’s easy to see the appeal of Club Nomadic to brands like AT&T and LIFEWTR. Club Nomadic wasn’t hosting performances; it was hosting experiences, and odds are good that the people who shared in those experiences aren’t likely to forget the people responsible for making them happen. All told, it was likely well worth what I assume was the significant amount of money it took to bring the entire thing together, not to mention having to work with the city on the associated road closures and signage up in the surrounding neighborhood, when the result looked as good as it did. At the very least, the entire experience was memorable.
So while the Bruno Mars concert was good and the experience inside Club Nomadic was only kind of weird — seriously, you don’t realize how much clothing matters ‘til you go to a show with a dress code — it’s also probably good that it’s only a temporary thing. Here’s a short list of complaints you would hear about Club Nomadic were someone to build a venue exactly like it with the exact same rules in the exact same space: with the lack of onsite parking, it’s inconvenient and/or expensive to get to; the structure is huge but the performance space is smaller than you would guess, leading to many folks having weird lines of sight for the stage; the nightclub dress-code rules; the layout on the ground floor is needlessly complex.
Which are fair points of complaint for a regular venue. But Club Nomadic isn’t a regular venue, and those issues add something of a charm to the experience. It was very obvious very quickly that this was a different kind of night. For a lot of folks there, it was never about just seeing Bruno Mars. It was about seeing Bruno Mars in this exclusive, luxury environment. Judging from the smiling faces all around the venue, it was money well spent for all parties involved.