Usher woos Vancouver with The UR Experience [Review]
Vancouver, BC – So how many hit singles does Usher have to his name? The answer is way more than you thought. His body of work is extensive and it’s difficult to realize until you get yourself to an Usher concert in 2014 – twenty years after the release of his first ever hit song, “Nice And Slow”. Since then Usher has produced an album boasting of countless hit singles every three to four years.
Jordan Taylor Wright
The crowd gathered in Vancouver’s were consequently expecting a good chunk of nostalgia on this past Thursday evening with the prince of RnB and Usher did not disappoint. He made singing and dancing look easy which they are clearly not. Usher’s voice is still strong and smooth and his dancing abilities, amplified by his feisty back up dancers, have no equal in the music biz today.
August Alsina opened the show at Roger’s Arena for the UR Experience Tour and it could not have been a better choice. Alsina, known for his catchy, gritty, club tracks, actually has a beautiful, soul-stirring voice. Barely 22, he already has a string of hits to his name that he covered in the show. “Numb” and “Kissin’ on My Tattoos” got the crowd going and its energy flowing. Alsina’s “Make It Home Tonight” was sung acoustically in parts where he slowed the song down and injected it with sorrow. In light of the disappointing verdict in Ferguson, the song was especially moving as it deals with the same subject matter. Alsina bantered well with the crowd, asking for a shoutout from the Team Alsina fans present at an Usher concert, to which he was met by a roaring response. He ended his set with “I Luh This Shit” which he was told would never get radio play because it was too vulgar. He also revealed that three years ago he was homeless. August Alsina is taking mainstream hip-hop by storm without compromising his social conscience. He is one of the many new faces of hip-hop that is about more than just business.
A video montage of Usher’s many significant moments from past and present set the tone upon which Usher emerged from a cloud of thick smoke and bursts of flames. “My Way” had him dancing away in an all black outfit with red sneakers. The song melted quickly into “Oh My God” and “In This Club”. The audience was lapping up the nostalgia and that audible sigh of people recognising songs was palpable. Usher performed a punk version of “U Make Me Wanna”. His band played with guitars and drums through most of the concert. This gave many of his songs a fresh feel. Accompanying Usher were his formidable backup dancers. Each one unique, each one with a distinct body type and personality. These guys and gals were a joy to watch to a point sometimes where they took attention away from Usher; while Usher too benevolently shared the spotlight with them throughout the show.
In his official greeting speech, Usher mentioned that it had been three years since he last performed in Vancouver. He then dove into the uber sexy “Nice and Slow”. At the end of the song he gave the ladies a little something by reaching deep down into his pants, a move that was also made by August Alsina during his time on stage. I suppose this is a thing now.
Usher’s version of “U Remind Me” was acoustic and had a quartet of trumpeters on it. It was wonderful. Hearing songs that you know really well in a new way such as this is a rejuvenating experience. With “Twisted” the show went into a more funk and jazz mode with dancers doing what was almost broadway-esque slapstick choreography. There literally was a danceoff during this song for a good while. “Caught Up” rounded things up in the same vein and left Usher dripping with sweat from all the energetic dancing. He never did miss a beat or a step through any of it.
The show took a solemn turn as Usher dipped into his reserve of ballads. This is what many would argue his voice does best. “Climax” had him singing in front of beautiful animations of dragons. The crowd loved “Confessions” especially as he sang it in a thick gold chain on a black outfit with matching golden sneakers. Amazement took charge over the crowd as Usher performed “My Boo”, “New Flame” and “Burn” one after another. These are back to back hits. He sure has a whole lotta hits.
For “Burn” he got everyone to get their cell phone lights out and melted the audience’s heart as he sang one of his best songs about heartbreak. “U Got It Bad” rounded up this beautiful set of ballads. Usher afterwards attempted to get a spotlight shone on the ladies in the crowd who could get his attention but the crowd got bored of that pretty quickly. Wish someone would have told Drake to do the same when he came out to Vancouver last year and spent half an hour doing the “I see you” bit. That’s just too hard to swallow, even for the die-hard fans.
Usher sat behind a gold drum set and played the beat for “Good Kisser” after which he finally took his shirt off to give his famous abs some fresh air. “Good Kisser” had fantastic dancing from Usher himself and all his dancers. He can pop, lock and wave like no other. And his footwork is of another universe. Towards the end of this song he appeared in a Canucks jersey and a racoon tail hat to really get his Canadian on. This drove the crowd wild with love. With “DJ Got Us Falling in Love” he appealed to his younger fans and got everyone dancing. His newer hits show how great Usher is at keeping himself relevant with the changing times. He closed the show with an electric “Yeah” which boasted of brilliant choreography framed by colourful lights and fireworks. One does wish however that he had cut down on the many medleys of songs and instead replaced them with one or two full songs. The medleys left the audience a little unsatiated and gave the show a rushed feel.
His fans screamed him back on stage for an encore, which he began with a small speech about how we are all one and that our race and where we come from does not matter. He urged his fans to live with love and not judge each other. He was clearly alluding to Ferguson as subtly as he could and just like Alsina, he got my respect along with that of many others. Usher drove the message home by singing the beautiful “Without You”. His final rendition was touching and emotional. He ended things on a cheeky note though as he took his shirt off at the end, performed a final split and disappeared into fireworks.
Usher is no ordinary artist. His discography is awe-inducing. His dancing and vocal abilities are extra-ordinary. Vancouver got to witness all of these fantastic attributes first-hand along with superlative dancing and stage production. Not to mention a rocking opening act.
Written by PK for HipHopCanada