Usher at Reliant Stadium, 3/7/2014
Usher's first trip to the Houston Livestock Show & Rodeo will likely remain one of the most memorable of his career. It was a show that started with big-budget excitement, continued on through a whole bunch of dirty dancing, teetered on the edge of disaster and ended with Usher Raymond IV proving that he's more than just a great singer and dancer, but that he's a master performer.
Most performers strip things down to play the rodeo, even though they're playing to more people. Usher went the opposite direction, making the most of his chance to perform in front of 75,067 screaming Usher fans.
It may not have been the miracle of entertainment, as one booming voice suggested over the PA, but it did leave an impression.
It's hard to believe that Usher has never played the rodeo before. With his collection of hits and larger-than-life personality, it seems like a no-brainer. In terms of popularity, he seems like the exact type of performer the rodeo would go after. With his fellow judges from The Voice performing this year -- Adam Levine and the rest of Maroon 5 will be in town Thursday and our good friend Blake Shelton will be here on the 20th -- maybe now was finally just his year.
The show felt massive, making the most of the stadium's lighting grid and pyro abilities. The opening of the show set the tone for the rest of the performance, with a group of motorcycles powering on to the stadium field, circling the stage, and engaging in some light stuntwork. It's the type of thing you don't get to do in an arena, and kudos to Usher for not being afraid to go big and bringing something different to the proceedings.
While a song like "Yeah!" is built for stadiums and "You Make Me Wanna..." still works after -- get ready to feel old -- 17 years, the highlight of the show on the musical side of things was "Burn." It had fans from the dirt all the way up to the press box harmonizing and pouring their hearts out.
Because most of us have not in fact been to every rodeo performance, it's hard to say with any degree of absolute certainty if Usher's performance had the most bumping and grinding of any rodeo show ever, but that seemed to be the consensus on social media. It was maybe a touch shocking for those who were expecting a night of clean, family entertainment, but sometimes a show just has to go in to PG-13 territory.
Review continues on the next page.