YoIf anyone has the right to sit on a throne in the middle of Las Vegas, it’s Usher. The King of R&B, whose residency has been in the city for 18 months, has earned his crown as an ambassador of near-unparalleled showmanship, delightful escapism and a good time. He is an old school artist, the type that he gives and gives, to surpass himself in a relentless pursuit of entertain. And so, the 45-year-old Las Vegas-based star (with all due respect to Adele) kicked off her Super Bowl halftime show, an accomplishment explicitly intended to be both a celebration of her 30-year career and a continuation of the same, decked out. in a majestic white suit, flanked by circus performers, and hitting the mark in a meticulous and mellifluous manner.
The 15-minute show (two more than the normal running time, to account for his vast catalogue) was a frenetic and daring, if at times chaotic and unusually wobbly, display of showmanship from an artist who has no motives. to demonstrate its good reputation. Fides, but I still tried. His mic was live, dance moves ready and loaded and, at one point, skates. Always a crowd pleaser and libido disruptor (the show began with a mock “U” rating from Apple Music, for the risk of “spinning” that “can cause relationship problems”), Usher turned the football field into a cornucopia of dance gymnastics and almost ran. through a nostalgic tour of successes.
This was to be the climax of Usher’s renaissance, his strenuous efforts to light up the country – and return to R&B – with his new album Coming Home, released just two days before this show that cemented his legacy. Usher seemed at times to feel the weight of the moment, particularly in the first half. Running around the mark, drenched in sweat, letting the backing track take some notes, he could detect the frenzy of nerves. The songs barely had time to land, let alone deliver the kind of ecstatic, carnal thump that is Usher’s trademark. Opener Caught Up backflipped U Don’t Have to Call a Superstar into Love at this Club in what seemed like the blink of an eye. (Maybe it was because trying to keep your eyes on the singer amidst the cacophonous choreography and trail camera made the time fly.)
But Usher is, by now, a statesman in the art of performing in big tents. If he sometimes seemed to have difficulty keeping up with his breakneck rhythm, he never missed a note, his voice was as velvety and agile as ever, the rococo turns of his falsetto intact. Not that there were many opportunities to sit with it; For better and sometimes for worse, the heavy weight of this task spread across many hands and a 14-song setlist attempted to do too much. Alicia Keys, resplendent in a red cape and leotard, took the show to a much-needed level with If I Ain’t Got You and bested Usher in My Boo. Jermaine Dupri promoted a knees-up version of Confession Part II (to be fair, anything less than the entire song would disappoint). HER killed on electric guitar for Bad Girl and U Got It Bad. Will.i.am provided the backbone of OMG, while everyone else was humming along.
Before the show, Usher promised two things: take off his shirt and put on skates. The first, for Burn, was exciting, dizzying and fun; the latter, for goodness sake, was at times exciting (backup dancers skating in splits, sick) and stressful (Usher looked mid-slide from the disaster). The slippery choreography with a noticeably off-balance star, cut to a Lil Jon in the crowd singing Turn Down for What in a shaky camera, made me nostalgic for Rihanna’s relaxed but commanding attitude last year, her disinterest in the choreography cooling the show. normally dizzying and fierce pace.
And yet, the strength is in numbers: the full track list, the dancers, the collaborators, the nostalgia, the hype, the skills. The program ended with a triumphant review of the radio hit Yeah! with Lil Jon and Ludacris, decked out in black and blue gladiator gear, Usher in a shiny suit with abdominal padding, as if he were preparing for a final battle for legacy. Altogether, as if the Avengers of mid-2000s dance party ubiquity (featuring a familiar, still-upbeat mash-up of Lil Jon’s Get Low), the vibe was a final exclamation point of charisma. You could see the stage literally bouncing. Victorious, Usher showed a radiant smile and put a final melismatic note on the indisputable: we ask to be entertained, and he, for 30 years, has always delivered.