At the moment Charlie Mars might be better known for having a famous girlfriend and looking good in skinny jeans (he was part of a fashion shoot for the April issue of Esquire magazine), but his music should be the thing that puts him on the map. A Wednesday night is tough on folks who have to work the next morning, but Mars and his band managed to bring a little of the weekend feel to the show at Zanzabar -- provoking a few sing-alongs and finally, some moves on the dance floor.
Mars began the set with some of his mellower tunes -- "Banging on Your Door" and "Oh Daddyo" from his new release, Like a Bird, Like a Plane -- plus, the song he wrote for Esquire's Songwriters Challenge, "At the Back of the Room." This was before he moved into the "sexy part of the evening," as he warned the crowd, which included some of the best songs off the new CD.
Funky beats and smoky vocals stand out on the title track and "Meet Me at the Backdoor," which he used to move the crowd to the dance floor. Mars is also good at engaging the audience, an important skill when you're playing a room that is mostly unfamiliar with your work. He's comfortable with a little stage banter and spinning a funny story about growing up in Laurel, MS to set up a song. All in all, he puts together a compelling live show that impressively backs up the good work on his album. HIs rhythm section was tight with well-known keyboardist Al Gamble, drummer Len Clark, and bassist Blake Rhea supporting Mars on guitar.