Live Review: Usher - Club Nokia, Los Angeles
Thu, 20 Nov 2008 11:55:41
Ne-Yo may have proclaimed 2008 the Year of the Gentleman, but Usher's been playing "gentle" for the better part of the last decade. Out of the young guns, he's still the best at it too. That's what he proved at Club Nokia during the Los Angeles stop of his Ladies Only tour. Hip hop-laden R&B is all the rage right now, however, while Ne-Yo and Kanye West have looked to Euro-flavor for inspiration, Usher keeps things distinctly American. In fact, he continues to draw from Stevie Wonder, Prince and Marvin Gaye with much aplomb. Oh yeah, the boy can dance up a storm that'd make Justin Timberlake jealous too.
The show began with a white curtain over the front of the stage. Suddenly, over the P.A., Usher exclaimed, "L.A., I'm going, going back to Cali." Immediately, the largely female audience erupted in cheers. As the intro cued up, the curtain dropped, and Usher took center stage, looking dapper as ever. Under his white Tony Montana-style suit jacket, a bow tie sat loosely on his shirt, and he peered through designer shades at the myriad of girls in the audience. After crooning his intro song, Usher launched right into "Love In this Club." Flanked by two girls smoking long cigarettes, Usher impeccably hit every note of the song. At the same time, he glided across the stage with a suave swagger that's rarely matched. He never missed a beat in either his vocals or his dance steps.
During "U Remind Me," spotlights shined down on the modern R&B maestro, and his voice simply soared on the chorus over a bouncy and buoyant beat. He slid across the stage and spun around. Usher's talent comes in his ability to multi-task, singing and dancing simultaneously—equally impressive at both. "This Ain't Sex" and "You Got It Bad" oozed sensuality with flourishes of hip hop flavor. In the middle of "That's What It's Made For," Usher's two female backup dancers stripped him of his shirt and pants on an elevated stage ramp between the keyboardist and drummer. A black curtain covered the stage, and a sensual guitar solo took all attention. It was more HBO Late Night special than TRL, but none of the ladies in attendance seemed to mind.
Crooning "Superstar," Usher rocked a shiny Hugh Hefner-style robe, shirtless. He lied on a large grand piano, while singing, and once again, the crowd's excitement was uncontrollable. He tried on his best falsetto at points and truly illuminated the diverse nature of his vocal talents. Usher's a genuine performer with enough panache to make love in any club.
At the end, strains of his mega-hit "Yeah" pulsated and bounced. Usher tore through a dynamic set, and his energy never let up, even with numerous costume and set changes. If he ever wants to take a turn on Broadway, he'd no doubt knock it out of the park. He transformed Club Nokia into his own version of a smoky soul spot and gave some serious class to the brand new venue.
At one point, Usher asked the crowd, "You think you can handle this tonight?" The answer was a resounding, "Yeah," and Usher kept the year of the gentleman going.