Usher : London Wembley Arena

Usher has real soul prowess...

Raymond Usher IV sure has his priorities right. This R&B heavyweight and MTV posterchild understands his hormone-obsessed teenage fanbase. That’s why tonight, spectacle is all.

The functional musicians are banished to one side of the stage, and the vision mixers for the live video projections to another. A huge ramp takes centre stage. Everything’s geared towards bringing[a]Usher[/a]’s athletic soulman persona to life.

Three images stay in mind, for a while. The sight of two corn-fed cheerleader types working poles like they’re in a lap-dance club. The vision of a huge bed set up onstage with massive pillows and candles for the time-honoured seduction routine. And the various communal dances, including a stab at hip-hop choreography and a session with baseball bats. If there’s a risqué element, it’s all safe and tasteful. But what really lingers is the ear-shredding screams from the audience.

Oh yeah, there’s music. Languid boudoir ballads, saucy imprecations, and uptempo booty-shakers are set to drum-heavy funk or layers of keyboards. And the other side of a bristling ‘Pop Ya Collar’, a most eerie cover of Marvin Gaye’s ‘What’s Going On’ proves [a]Usher[/a]

has real soul prowess.

It’s obvious the Atlanta, Georgia dweller continues in a long showbiz tradition, from Motown revues to their Philly equivalent – he’s just got the suss to overcome obstacles today’s short attention-spans set in his own way. The third MTV generation might’ve been accused of being shallow, superficial, apolitical, materialistic and self-obsessed. But no-one ever said they lacked taste.

Dele Fadele