It’s been about six years since Usher brought his last major arena tour to New York City, but on December 13 when he came through New York City’s Madison Square Garden for night one of two sold out shows, he treated those in attention to a dynamic, explosive event that drew the crowd into his world. the performer brought along singers Trey Songz and up and comer Miguel as his tour openers, setting the tone as a “for ladies” show.
Usher’s fellow Jive Records recording artist Miguel opened the show with songs off his debut album All I Want is You which included the title track as well as songs. Atlantic Records crooner Trey Songz came out on stage at 8:00 p.m. in which his intro was marked by a video of the singer meeting a woman at a hotel. Songz performed hits from his latest album Passion, Pain and Pleasure which included Can’t Be Friends, I Invented Sex, Love Faces, and Say Ahh, in which he brought out New York rapper Fabolous to perform his verse on the song. Songz also sang the chorus from Rihanna’s part on Eminem and Rihanna’s Grammy nominated hit Love the Way You Lie.Songz also did a cover version of Kings of Leon’s “Use Somebody,” He then took some time to personally communicate with the audience, reading the signs out loud that the women in the audience were holding up. “Can I have your t-shirt, tie, or towel?” one girl’s sign said. Later in his set, Trey took off his sweaty tank top t-shirt and lowered it into her arms possibly making that moment one of the better memories of her day.
At around 9:15 p.m. Usher opened his set by rising 15 feet in the air on a square glass and metal platform,performing his song “Monstar” off his album Raymond vs. Raymond while the platform floated over the center audience to it got to the stage. He then went into performing She Don’t Know, before a pyrotechnic explosion signaled the start of his 2004 hit Yeah!. After a video montage of some of his earlier music videos, and a quick costume change, Usher took the crowd back to 2001 with his performance of You Remind Me, and You Don’t Have To Call then going into You Make Me Wanna from his 1997 album My Way. After You Remind Me the performer did a brief skit with four of his female dancers which included the following dialogue, “You know I have a past,” he said to one dancer who was supposed to be portraying a angry girlfriend as he pointed to three jealous women behind him referring to them as the Desperate Housewives of New York. “But you’re my future.” The three women including his new “girlfriend” walked off the stage. “That’s not how we rehearsed the s— earlier,” the singer joked.Throughout his 22 song, 105 minute set, the performer performed all of his hit songs throughout his sixteen year career, making this somewhat of a greatest hits show. The performer concluded the show with a encore performance of the song for which the tour is named for, the aptly entitled OMG complete with a fireworks filled ending.
Some of the high points of the show were Usher’s entrance atop the suspended platform, his performances of his uptempo dance tracks which noticeably pyrotechnic explosions, and fireworks marked the intro to many of those numbers,as well as the performer’s slow songs like Burn(also performed while the singer floated above the audience on the platform) and There Goes My Baby. Many fans in attendance also note a particular incident which occurred when he invited a female fan on stage to dance with him while performing Trading Places. The young woman got a little too excited and during a moment of trying to place her leg on the singer’s chest ended up kicking him in the side of the face. The performer however didn’t take the incident too seriously and jokingly played it off. Another standout point was Usher’s brief tribute to legendary performer Michael Jackson, to which the performer rolled out a pair of sparkling black sneakers onstage told the crowd that he had done a tribute to this performer without revealing the name(although everyone already knew who he was talking about) Asked the audience “Do I have your permission to fill these shows?”, and in a Thriller styled red jacket moon-walked his way across the stage in true Michael Jackson style as Jackson’s Don’t Stop To You Get Enough played. Another Jackson reference during the show was the moment Usher pulled out a gold U chain from a metal briefcase, in a similar way as Jackson pulled out a black fedora from a briefcase before his performances of his classic hit Billie Jean.
Besides Usher’s vocals and dancing which were smooth and matched the recorded versions almost to a tee, stood out it was also the audience interaction which made the audience feel that the performer was connecting with each and everyone there. Almost towards beginning the finale Usher told the crowd at Madison Square Garden that he got his start in New york City, and quizzed the audience to see if they remembered verses from his earlier works which weren’t on the setlist such as singing a verse from 1994’s “Think of You” at times jokingly telling the audience that they didn’t go back far enough when trying to sing along.
Usher, Trey Songz and Miguel definitely accomplished what they set out to do, which was draw in the crowd especially the ladies in attendance (which was the majority of the crowd) and make each one of them feel special as if they had a somewhat personal connection with the performers, while providing a visually exciting, explosive atmosphere.