Bruno Mars delivered an energetic half-time performance tonight at Super Bowl XLVIII that recalled the glory days of Motown, while still sounding fresh and new.

At 28, Mars is the youngest artist to headline a Super Bowl halftime by himself, according to his label (the Red Hot Chili Peppers counted as special guests). When he was first announced, there were some grumbles in the press that with only two albums behind him, he didn’t have the catalog, history, or experience to fill the bill.

The critics were wrong…as anyone who has seen Mars in concert knows. He brought the same “best-episode-of-‘Soul-Train-that-you-ever-saw” spirit to the halftime that he brings to his shows. After a chorus of children signing on the main stage, Mars started his 12 minutes bashing the drums on a mini-stage in the middle of the field. As he continued playing, the stage moved to meet the main stage via a track, where his band, all dressed, like Mars, in gold lame´ jackets and skinny black ties, were waiting to burst into the percolating, hiccupping “Locked Out of Heaven.”

With the band members in a row, flanking Mars, they shifted into “Treasure,” their coordinating dance moves hinting at what was to come. Mars moved into the rock track, “Runaway Baby” before busting out his James Brown moves, including dropping to a split and pulling himself back up. All he was missing was Brown’s cape.

The Red Hot Chili Peppers then joined Mars for “Give It Away” in what was a largely pointless exercise meant to appeal to older fans. That’s not to say that Anthony Kiedis and Flea didn’t give it their all—they seemingly literally gave the shirts off their backs—but their participation, as energetic as it was, relegated Mars, who had great momentum going, to a back-up dancer in his own show. They all finished very athletically jumping around as if they could go all night... and it would have been fun if they had.

As Mars scampered to another small stage in the middle of the field, members of the military dedicated the song to loved ones as the opening notes of “Just The Way You Are” played. Mars, accompanied by either his unseen band or a track, sang his heart out and he was clearly singing live, as he did throughout his performance, as fireworks exploded.

So was it the most exciting halftime ever? No. But when someone is as talented as Mars, he doesn’t need to rely on gimmicks. Even as the early stage in his career, he has enough hits, charisma, dance moves and vocal chops to make for a memorable halftime show.

Often, the halftime performer has a new album to push. Mars does not, but he does have a new tour and tickets go on sale for the next leg of the Moonshine Jungle World Tour tomorrow. 

What did you think of Mars’ halftime show?