Usher, 02 Arena, London
Friday 04 February 2011
Devoted to R&B over the past two decades, the Grammy-winning Usher Raymond has influenced many successful artists (Justin Timberlake, Chris Brown, protégé Justin Bieber) who've shown no shame in pinching his template. With 45 million record sales worldwide under his belt, his recent attempts to keep up with the kids – chart-topping "OMG" springs to mind – and dip his toes in rave and electro bear no resemblance to the early years of his illustrious career.
This slick, techy-inspired show, though, is devoted to his R&B roots and early videos. He steams through his musical highlights, his penchant for showmanship bringing to mind Michael Jackson, whom he makes a point of honouring tonight.
Prior to this tribute, his set flickers with a reliable mix of club anthems ("Yeah") and classics ("U Remind Me"), all dedicated to sex, love and relationships, and all accompanied by salacious dance moves with a stripper-esque quartet.
In fact, Usher's too busy working hard to show any obvious pleasure in what he's doing until he kicks his performance into another gear and switches into King of Pop mode, slipping into a pair of sparkly trainers for added effect.
He's suddenly more electric and smiley, moonwalking and striking Jackson's legendary poses, and transforming "U Make Me Wanna" into a breathless display not far removed from the essence of "Smooth Criminal".
Vocally, he makes a point of proving his chops – although you can make out the collective side glances in the crowd when he delivers excessive runs of melisma and shrieking to punctuate the painful sentiment of break-up song "Burn".
If there are any downsides to the spectacle, they're long forgotten by the second half. Much more engaging and pacey than the predictable first, he signs off with a brilliant retrospective of "Pop Ya Collar", "U-Turn" and of course "OMG".
Art Megumi Igarashi criticises Japan's 'backwards' attitude to women's sexual expression
tv Singer could become the most unlikely star of Westeros
Ray Davies' Sunny Afternoon scoops the most awardsTheatre
Grace DentChannel 4 show proves there's no app for happiness
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Rarest Beanie Baby bought for just £10 at car boot sale could be sold for £62,500 on eBay
- 2 Katie Hopkins and The Sun editor are reported to police for incitement to racial hatred following migrant boat column
- 3 Katie Hopkins has just written a piece so hateful that it might give Hitler pause – why was it published?
- 4 Australian student Tommy Connolly, 23, adopts his pregnant, homeless 17-year-old cousin to give her a chance at 'a better life'
- 5 Cancel Sky at your peril: man spends 96 minutes in chat but fails to get rid of service
Britain's Got Talent 2015: RSPCA investigating Marc Metral's miming dog after cruelty complaints
Star Wars 7: George Lucas admits he hasn't seen The Force Awakens trailer
Star Wars: Rogue One trailer: Watch the teaser for the Jedi-less Death Star heist film
Avengers: Age of Ultron: 'After credits' scene leaks online
Kevin Spacey's successor at The Old Vic promises a more low-key approach
If I’m being racially abused I don’t need a stranger with a saviour complex to rescue me
The only black face in the Ukip manifesto is on the page about overseas aid
Ukip is the only main political party to not address LGBT rights in its manifesto
Food banks: One million Britons will soon be using them, according to Trussell Trust
Religion isn't growing, it is becoming vigorous in its demise, says philosopher AC Grayling
BBC election debate: The one photo that summed up the whole 90-minute leaders debate