Review + Photos: Usher Makes Large-Scale Love to His Crowd on the OMG Tour, Scottrade Center, Friday, November 26
The St. Louis stop on Usher's OMG Tour began with the magician's best trick: misdirection. While a troupe of hip-hop Cylons danced amid a vaguely dystopian stage set, Usher himself was levitated on a floating riser near the rear of the floor, coasting above the crowd as he sang this year's Raymond v. Raymond opening cut, "Monstar." Once the riser descended onto the stage, the still-harnessed Usher engaged in some Spider-Man-style acrobatics, using the now-vertical platform as a climbing wall, a rooftop and a giant slide. That style of showmanship carried through the 100-minute performance, as Usher and his nine-person dance crew worked their way through his catalog of dance-club bangers, tender ballads and sweaty slow jams.
Todd Owyoung Usher at the Scottrade Center, St. Louis
For the first part of the set, the choreography was as important as the music. Usher doffed his black leather jacket to reveal a tight leather breastplate during "She Don't Know," which matched the female dancers' bondage bikinis; it would be the first of many undressings. "Yeah!" is still his biggest and most recognizable hit, and it came early in the set and featured some of the set's strongest group choreography. Usher himself remains no slouch on the dance floor: In a tribute to his idol and most obvious influence, Michael Jackson, he put on a pair of sparkly high-tops and moonwalked around an elevated platform before launching into a smoothed-out "U Make Me Wanna."
When he wasn't singing, dancing, or engaging in some playful striptease, Usher used his considerable charm and magnet-like hold on the females in the audience to engage in some large-scale flirting. As he played up his status as a newly single man, Usher asked the ladies to come to the foot of the stage so he could make his selection for the night. Sure enough, one lucky lady named Janelle was brought on stage during "Trading Places," and the pair engaged in a little good-natured dry humping while Janelle tried desperately to keep her top from falling down. Her moves and her flexibility were so good that she seemed to be an extra pre-chosen for this routine, but Usher's shit-eating grin during a particularly righteous bump-and-grind session proved that he was as surprised as the crowd was at the local talent.
If the show's sex-vibe wasn't already at a fever pitch, "Love in this Club" put it over the top. The song is the best amalgamation of his talents: It's a one-on-one seduction that is both entirely carnal and undeniably sweet, and features a stone-cold groove that lifts off at the hands-in-the-air chorus.