It is crazy to think that Usher scored his first Number One in the UK over 17 years ago with ‘You Make Me Wanna’, and that he is still performing with that same level of charisma and energy at the age of 36.
The critically-acclaimed showman and R&B star ended the UK leg of his “UrExperience Tour” at London’s sold-out O2 arena this past Thursday. His show, which he promoted to be a journey through his 22 year music career, supplied the mixed audience of “Original” and “New-Original” Usher fans with explosive dancing and performances of some of his latest songs such as ‘Good Kisser’ and ‘Scream’, slow and intimate greats like ‘Burn’, ‘Climax’ and ‘U Got It Bad’, yet unfortunately a lot of his older and personally, more appreciated songs from albums 8701 (2001) and Confessions (2004) were covered in a matter of seconds with the crowd singing the majority of the words.
The start was impressive, as expected, with hundreds of dazzling lights, an impressively created stage and an energetic DJ, backing singers and band. When Usher emerged from the background, one could barely hear through all the screams (myself included). He immediately got his crowd dancing with 2010 chart-topper ‘OMG’, followed by an equally energetic ‘Twisted’ from his more recent album Looking 4 Myself (2012). However, one thing was noticeable at this point; the backing music and beats were overpowering ‘Mr. Entertainment’s’ vocals which was slightly hindering the experience of his talents.
Following a few more songs, his team either seemed to notice the sound issues, or ‘Big Ush’ could not resist soaking up the love from the crowd, spending a good five minutes looking out at everybody, sharing his appreciation and picking out members in the crowd to give a more personal touch to the (Ur)experience.
Then came the sing-a-long, which in hindsight is always a great way to engage the crowd and witness the levels of appreciation which certain pieces of music used to and still do receive from your fan-base. However, when you can comfortably say up until this point, half-way through the concert, that you have sung more words tonight than the performer himself, he is either being lazy, lacking the sort of quality he once had, or alternatively he was simply drained at the back-end of the UK Tour and the entire UrExperience World Tour to date.
Yet, the king of R&B himself managed to redeem himself, slowing the pace down for a few numbers while he soaked up the love even more and had the entire crowd singing along with him to ‘Burn’, which was the moment of the night for me. When the crowd was ready to party one last time, he decided to showcase his range of skills including rapping and playing the drums, before delivering crowd favourites such as his latest controversial song ‘I Don’t Mind’ and the game-changer of R&B back in 2004 ‘Yeah!’ which had every “Original” fan imagining they were in that club, with their Atlanta Braves snapback, and ‘U’ chain spinning around their neck once again.
He ended with the powerful ‘Without You’ which he released with David Guetta in 2011, which most people were pleasantly surprised by. It was a great way to close a very fun night, apart from the disappointing sound at the beginning, and the limited performance of his more original songs.
Credit to the dancers who kept the energy of the show flowing throughout when the older boy couldn’t keep up, the backing singers, and most of all Nico and Vinz, his support act who got the crowd ready for a night of singing and dancing with their fresh and popular song ‘Am I Wrong’.
The last time Usher came to The O2, his mildly successful album Raymond vs. Raymond (2010) had just been released and the show was a master-piece. The multi-talented performer is undoubtedly still loved by the UK and can still perform and grab a crowd, but personally, he was not at his best on 26th March 2015. It also took him the whole show to get his top off for the crowd (very un-Usher like). This one’s for you Ladies…
You Make Me Wanna (1998)
Good Kisser (2014)
OMG (Ft. Will.i.Am) (2010)
I Don’t Mind (2014)
Yeah! (Ft. Ludacris & Lil Jon) (2004)
Without You (Ft. David Guetta) (2011)