Picture courtesy of @fbaindmix
Thousands of car headlights illuminated the blackness of the night as drivers navigated downtown Houston. At each cross way, controlled by HPD, there were droves of people walking in unison to the Toyota Center. Human bodies made a fence that engulfed the perimeter of the building. All…parking… vanished. It would be 45 minutes before my ticket could unlock what I had envisioned. Destiny hand wrote my fate when Live Nation brought August Alsina and Usher to Houston on December 5th. The “UR Experience Tour” imprinted its essence upon the musical souls of fans.
Picture courtesy of @fbaindmix
Promptly at 7:30pm, the lights in the arena turned off. Strobe lights danced on top of the stage highlighting the opulent French inspired table that housed the DJ equipment. Assaulting the 1’s and 2’s, DJ Cassidy opened the show. Mixing everything from Sam Smith [“Latch”] to B.I.G. [“Mo Money , Mo Problems”], Cassidy controlled the atmosphere. The venue’s rows suddenly became personal dance floors. Darkness fell upon our eyes once more. When our eyes were caressed by light again, the youngin’,August Alsina, floated onto stage. With the addition of dancers, Alsina transformed his Testimony set. DJ Era manned the turntables as Alsina’s live band took fans on a cadence filled journey. “Hold You Down” and “Ghetto” assured the ladies he was all for them. When the 808’s kicked in for “Porn Star” and “Kissing On My Tattoos”, Alsina’s real-time grind effort did not go unnoticed. Gyrating his slim frame, Alsina rhythmic motion requested that all eyes be fixated upon him and they were. (Who is teaching Alsina the art of seduction?) Alsina took a moment to remember #MikeBrown proceeding his “Make It Home” and “Don’t Forget About Me” performance. “Numb” made the audience lose control, but nothing compared to “I Luv This Shhh” . Out the corner of my eye I caught an Alpha ( shout out to the ice cold brothers) take it around. There were women of a particular age shaking what their mothers gave them. Thanking the crowd for support and encouraging people to chase their dreams, the New Orleans native disappeared into the wings of the stage.
Usher also paid homage to Pimp C of UGK
Intermission was incredible. Radio hits played as we waited. Without any warning, the music stopped and silence accompanied the darkness that was cast on us once again. Like a scene from “Tron” the stage lit up, parading vibrant colors. The sound of the horns presented the melodic staircase that carried Usher onto the stage. Caressing the mic and its stand Usher opened with “My Way” and even spit a few bars over the Drake’s “0-100”. I am unsure if I was totally entranced with the visual stimulation of the stage that told the story of Usher or the idea that Mr. Raymond had a full live band complete with horns. With 20 years in the game, Usher took his day – one fans down memory lane. He teased about how women nag in relationships as he performed the nostalgic anthem “Twisted”. His vocals commanded the depths of our inner most thoughts of him with “New Flame”. He told us that he was “Caught Up” before he poured his heart into “Confessions”. The infectious bass line of “Lemme See It” had every female slow winding. “Lovers and Friends” gave hope to those who were unsure if Usher’s fluid ability to vocally seduce was reminiscent of his real life. Countless classics were performed. “You Don’t Have To Call” , “I Need A Girl”, “ I Don’t Mind”, Climax”, “OMG” , “ DJ Got Us Fallin In Love”. It was as though I was witnessing the live account of his extensive discography. Some songs I forgot existed until the chords of the keys called my name and I was forced to “Let It Burn”. That’s when Mr. Raymond told me “You Got It Bad”. Every female in the audience knew they the “Number One” fan when he belted “There Goes My Baby”. Scanning the Toyota Center for that “Bad Girl” , Usher gave us a “Throwback”. Nothing could compare to the hypnotic performance of “Good Kisser”. A gold drum set illuminated brilliantly under the stage lights. The flames that blazed previously were now replaced with smoke. He ushered (all puns intended) in the song. Quite a few women wanted to know if they fit that mold. Taunting, the R&B icon allowed his perfectly sculpted body to become the main attraction. It was a showstopper. None of the graphics on screen nor the exhilarating stage display compared to the artistic creation of Usher’s body. It was magnificent. Belting an exuberant performance of “Yeah” Concert-goers naively assumed it was the finale, but as the arena reluctantly cleared the stage lit up once more. Mr. Raymond officially closed out with “With Out You”.
There are performers and then there are entertainers. “The UR Experience Tour” proved to be a tour comprised of entertainers. There was not a moment of regret for attendance the entire night. It was one of the visually luxurious shows I have attended. If you haven’t copped those tickets to see “The UR Experience Tour” , do so now. This tour put faith back that entertainers are still alive and well; that talent and great vision exists. It is an exquisite production.