Last Night: Usher At Toyota Center

"He has to be wearing control underwear"

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Photos by Marco Torres
Toyota Center
November 23, 2010

Usher sweats performance. The man doesn't know how to put on a half-ass show, and he packs each one of those shows dangerously full like a munitions specialist loading C4 into a bomb. There's fireworks, male and female dancers, hydraulics, simulated sex, more fire, and the music is smoothed over the top like cream-cheese icing.

Last night's teeming Toyota Center gig saw the man carousing with a gaggle of male dancers, at times wielding guns and sparking drills whilst dancing, and a comely female dance troupe that was so efficient and attractive that they were unsettling to watch.

Few shows this year have matched up to the raw spectacle of a night with Usher. It's big-time Hollywood-blockbuster stuff, like a Bad Boys movie, complete with high-wire acts, espionage, big-budget effects, and a little music.

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It's hard for us to believe that the last time we saw Usher live, he was in the tiny House of Blues just a stone's throw from the front door of Toyota Center. This one made the HOB show look like a $5 Fugazi date in a VFW hall.

The secret to Usher is that he doesn't even need the bombs and lasers to get his point across. He's one of the few R&B guys with the stamina and longevity he has had. Even at 32, he's somewhat of a graybeard in his genre.

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Yeah, he was using a backing track, but like our concertmate put it, you don't necessarily go to an Usher show for vocal feats. Save that stuff for the platinum albums.

During 2004's "Yeah!", Toyota Center was this state's sweatiest danceteria for three minutes, and we were only three songs into the set. Older cuts from his second LP, 1997's My Way, have been beefed up live to the standards from his recent work.

For "Trading Places," he pulled a willing young lady onstage for the male-female role reversal track. He was doing the usual sing-to-fan-deal when the girl, who couldn't have been more than 20 started fighting back his advances with some feisty moves of her own. It seemed at any moment she was going to paw his pants off. Either someone is a professional, or she was grabbing that brass ring for all it was worth.

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