Review: A Candid Conversation About Usher’s ‘The UR Experience’ Tour
November 9, 2014 - 2:09 am
Christine: Usher did well by inviting August Alsina on tour. He has that it factor that the ladies ooze over. Above all, it's an overall good look for August. He did well with working the crowd and singing fan faves from the album. What do you think?
Iyana: August was a good look for sure. Madison Square is not small, nor is it an easy crowd, and he held his own. The girls were going nuts! Especially when he showed us all his pubic hair...
Christine.: Umm, yeah about that... Random, but hey, the gals enjoyed it. Although, I was disappointed in the sound quality. Being someone who doesn't know every song on his album, I would've loved to have heard what he was saying. I wanted the band to turn down a little bit. There's no doubt he can sing, but I wanted to enjoy another song outside of "I Love This Shit."
Iyana: Meanwhile, I was getting my entire life. Bad sound quality and all. But yeah, that set may not have been an opportunity for him to gain any new fans. Unless, of course, they're fond of his happy trail.
Christine: I agree. August has come a long away. Let's see what the future holds. Before we get to Usher's set, DJ Cassidy did a good job with warming up the crowd…
Iyana: Eh. He gave me moments, but I'm not sure that constitutes as good DJ'ing. Wasn't bad, but wasn't exceptional either. I wasn't all like, "Hey remember that DJ Cassidy set?" Nah.
Iyana: But onto the man of the hour…
Iyana: Overall, Usher's show is clearly a victory lap. Of course there was amazing dancing, a seemingly never-ending (thank God) list of hits, and great vocals, but the sense of celebration stuck out to me the most. He's happy with what he's accomplished and had fun sharing it.
Christine: Yes! His 2-hour set reminded me of how much Usher has accomplished throughout his career. Dance and keeping up with the best of them? Check. Sing with a passionate & emotional conviction without missing a note? Check. All while engaging with the audience every step of the way? Check.
He took everyone on a memory roller coaster and flawlessly segued into each song as though they were all made to go together, just for that night.
Iyana: Word. It felt like one long, awesome live album.
Christine: If he dropped a live album, I'd buy it. Also, I didn't mind how he added a slight remix to each song and didn't play it safe by singing it exactly like the record. I dug it.
Iyana: Yes, He threw Drake's "0 to 100" beat into "My Way!" #Win. This is a nice segue to talk about some of our favorite moments…
Iyana: Can we just spend a minute (or three) on "Lil' Freak?" DAMN, the sex was on 10 for that song. Usher's face under a red light, a sax solo, and the dancer going straight Crazy Horse as he sang? Usher knows how to sell sex. One of my favorite portions of the show.
Christine: Good gawd, that performance! I could not keep my eyes off her. I found myself taking note and telling myself, "Let me go back home and practice that!" Usher just oozes sex appeal and he knows it. The dancers were icing on the cake.
Iyana: Common knowledge for years now, huh? Any favorite moments for you?
Christine: I actually have two favorites. First, I thoroughly enjoyed his performance of "Twisted." I liked how all the dancers re-enacted moves from Michael Jackson's "The Way You Make Me Feel" as well as signature moves from MJ and James Brown. The dance-off between them brought great energy.
Iyana: I literally wrote "James Brown 'Mr. Dynamite' moment" in my notes when he was performing "Twisted." Didn't know the song, but definitely got the vibe he was giving. Electrifying.
Christine: Yes! You felt it, too. My second favorite moment was when Usher stood in the spotlight and delivered a raw rendition of "Climax." Everyone was into that one. His singing reminded me of a water painting. Each note just flowed as his voice seemed to float and smear into your mind and heart. Yes. If I wasn't familiar with him before last night, I would've been converted into an Usher fan after that raw song delivery.
Iyana: For "Climax," of course the vocals were on FLEEK. But I actually got caught up in the background visuals. Dragons, beating hearts... very intense complement to an intense song.
Christine: The background visuals definitely set the tone and made "Climax" even more intimate.
Iyana: Oh, and the DJ jam session? How cold was Usher in his rope chain on top of the DJ booth rocking out to all those snippets? "My Boo," "I Need A Girl," "Lovers and Friends?" You almost wished he had the time to perform them all. But alas, he is human. (insert sad face)
Christine: That chain (and random furry hat) was something serious. Can we also talk about how "Confessions" was basically a turn-up session everyone was relieved to hear?
Iyana: Are you telepathically reading my notes? Next to "Confessions," I wrote "TURN UP!" Basically all that needs to be said.
About that "Bad Girl" audience member dance contest. Honestly, I would rather have seen him just perform the song than waste our (precious, and all too short) time with him selecting girls from the audience. It felt like a break in our date for a phone call.
Christine: I see what you're saying, but it's always great when there's that moment when a performer reaches out to a fan. I was just glad it wasn't your typical engagement i.e. lap-dance with single fan from audience scenario.
Iyana: I guess. Am I low-key hating that I didn't get chosen? Possibly, but I digress…
Christine: You know, I was going to say it, but I swept it under the rug…
Iyana: Let's talk setlist. I figured out a few songs that I wished he would have performed. I think "That's What It's Made For," "Throwback," "Trading Places" or "Moving Mountains" could've made appearances. Also think "Hot Tottie" could've been fun to watch.
Christine: Mmm, I didn't realize he skipped those songs. I was so into the set as it was. However, I don't think I remember hearing "Hey Daddy" or "OMG." I would've loved to hear "Can You Handle It?" Oh yes.
Iyana: He played "Hey Daddy" and "OMG." But "Can You Handle It" or "That's What It's Made For" could've worked for that "Lil' Freak" sex scene for sure.
Christine: Ah, okay. Most definitely! So many jams in too little time!
Iyana: Also enjoyed his encore song; it was an interesting choice. But I’ll let that surprise fans. Just don’t leave the arena until the lights come on.
Setlist: My Way (My Way, 1997) OMG (Raymond v Raymond, 2010) Love in This Club (Here I Stand, 2008) You Make Me Wanna... (My Way, 1997) Lil' Freak (Raymond v Raymond, 2010) Nice & Slow (My Way, 1997) U Remind Me (8701, 2001) Twisted (Looking 4 Myself, 2012) Caught Up (Confessions, 2004) She Came to Give it to You (UR, TBA) Dot Com (Rhythm City, Volume One: Caught Up, 2005) Climax (Looking 4 Myself, 2012) Seduction (Confessions, 2004) That's What It's Made For (Confessions, 2004) Confessions Parts I & II (Confessions, 2004) DJ Break (“Daddy’s Home,” “My Boo,” “I Need A Girl,” “Lovers & Friends”) Burn (Confessions, 2004) There Goes My Baby (Raymond v Raymond, 2010) U Got It Bad (8701, 2001) Superstar (Confessions, 2004) Bad Girl (Confessions, 2004) Good Kisser (UR, TBA) U Don't Have to Call (8701, 2001) DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love (Versus, 2010) Yeah! (Confessions, 2004) *Encore song*
Christine: I will end this by saying that Usher did not fail to disappoint. It was definitely a great “UR Experience.” I didn't realize I had a seat to use until after it was all over.
Iyana: Indeed. Usher was incredible. If you see “The UR Experience” and are not satisfied by something, you can merely chalk it up to trying to fit 20 years into two hours. And Ursh did a hell of a job condensing.
Christine: Yes, a job worth seeing on the stage again.