Review: Usher, Trey Songz at 1st Mariner Arena

Baltimore Sun reporter

From the Midnight Sun blog:

One is on the short list of entertainers who could replace Michael Jackson as the king of pop.

The other has dominated airwaves with sexually charged lyricsboasting of his sexual prowess.

Both, Usher and Trey Songz, used their sexual appeal Wednesdaynight to wow a largely female audience at 1st Mariner Arena as eachperformed a slew of chart topping hits.

First up was Songz, who has made a living with sexed-up hits suchas ?Neighbors Know My Name? and ?Invented Sex.? His lyrics were thebiggest attraction here, but Songz also teased the audience withvarious stages of undress. (The adoring fans loved that..) Hedidn't embellish the performance much, he basically stood on thestage and sang, which was plenty. His voice was phenomenal,especially when he used his falsetto range.

Still, there was no real dancing per say, and Songz seemedincapable of doing anything other than putting on a striptease. Theminute Usher took the stage after Songz's near-hour set, it becameobvious that he was the more complete entertainer.

He emerged from the back of the audience on a rectangular piece ofmetal, soared above the awestruck crowd and descended onto hisfuturistic-looking stage. (Think "Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome")(ed.Please say he looked like Tina Turner).

From there, a bungee-corded Usher performed a series ofgravity-defying, "Matrix"-esque moves. At least,the visuals keptthe focus off of a God-awful sound system that completely ravagedhis first two songs, making them almost unrecognizable. The problemwas corrected by the third song, "Yeah," which got the audienceamped.

Usher and his phenomenal female dancers tore up the stage withprecise steps, and unmatched energy. (They really earned theirpaychecks last night.) The dancers even did a little acting duringhis performance of the ballad "You Remind Me," where he portrayed aplayboy with a wandering eye. The skit was a little corny and dated(insert Tiger Woods joke here), but played up Usher'sshowmanship.

The singer paid homage to pop music's ultimate showman-- his idolMichael Jackson -- during a minute-long tribute where Ushermimicked a number of Jackson's dance moves, including thecrotch-grabbing pelvis thrust and the "Moonwalk."

Usher quickly returned to his own material with familiar balladssuch as "You Make Me Wanna," "Mars vs. Venus," and "Nice and Slow."He started to build a romantic mood, and slowed down the tempo. ForUsher that means that on the song "Trading Places," he picked out afan from the audience, brought her on stage and began to simulatesexual acts on her.. (How proud her parents must have been.)

I guess it was an appropriate transition to his song "Lil' Freak,"which was originally recorded as a duet with Nicki Minaj. Thoughtsof the absent rapper were quickly eliminated by Usher's femaledancers who were seductively crawling over the stage. The singerpicked up the pace with "Hot Tottie," arguably his best number ofthe night. The choreography was particularly stellar, and the crowdreally got into the song.

Usher then fired off a series of ballads including "There Goes MyBaby," "Burn," "Bad Girl," "Hey Daddy (Daddy's Home), among others.To finish out the night, he performed the high-energy " DJ Got UsFallin' in Love." He pulled out all the stops with thisperformance.

His background dancers waved glow sticks against the black lightsused on stage, which created a rave feel to go along with the dancehit. After a quick exit, Usher encored with mega hit "OMG." Dressedin a white sports jacket, black hat, tank-top, and jeans, hepersonified cool. He glided across the stage with a fluidity thatonly true performers posses, and he worked the heck out of thecrowd - all while singing.

Many consider Usher the heir apparent to the king of pop. Lastnight, he made a pretty good case for why he should at least beconsidered for the distinction.

Usher playlist: Monstar She Don't Know Yeah! U Remind Me U Don'tHave To Call You Make Me Wanna Mars vs. Venus Nice and Slow Love'Em All Trading Places Love In This Club Lil' Freak Hot TottieThere Goes My Baby Burn Bad Girl Hey Daddy (Daddy's Home)Confessions, Part 2 My Boo I Need a Girl (Part One) Lovers &Friends Caught Up DJ Got Us Fallin' in Love OMG

John-John Williams the IV is a features reporter at the BaltimoreSun. He has previously contributed to Midnight Sun. Erik Mazaedited the post.

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