Usher is the rightful ruler of Las Vegas, known as the King of R&B. After gracing the city with his residency for 18 months, he has solidified his position as an unparalleled ambassador of spectacular performances, luxurious escapism, and pure fun. As a traditional performer, he constantly strives to outdo himself in order to entertain his audience. At the age of 45, Usher took the stage as the headlining star of the Super Bowl half-time show – a remarkable achievement honoring his 30-year career and serving as a continuation of it. Dressed in a majestic white suit and accompanied by circus performers, he flawlessly executed his performance with precision and charm.
The 15-minute performance, which was two minutes longer than usual to accommodate his extensive repertoire, was a fast-paced and daring display of showmanship from an artist who has nothing to prove but still gave it his all. He sang live, executed choreographed dance moves flawlessly, and even wore roller skates at one point. Usher, known for his crowd-pleasing and provocative performances, kicked off the show with a playful jab at Apple Music and continued to wow the audience with a medley of his hit songs while showcasing impressive dance gymnastics.
This show was meant to be the peak of Usher’s comeback, as he worked hard to revive the popularity of R&B in the country with his new album Coming Home. The album was released just two days before this performance, which would solidify his legacy. Usher appeared to be feeling the pressure of the moment, especially in the first half of the show. He was constantly moving, covered in sweat, and occasionally letting the backing track take over for a few notes – indicating his nervousness. The songs didn’t have much time to make an impact, and lacked the intense and seductive energy that Usher is known for. The setlist moved quickly from opener Caught Up to U Don’t Have to Call to Superstar to Love in this Club, almost in the blink of an eye. This could have been due to the fast-paced choreography and the busy camera work, making time seem to fly by.
Usher is now a seasoned performer in the art of all-encompassing shows. Though he may have appeared to struggle at times with keeping up his energetic pace, he flawlessly hit every note with his smooth and flexible voice, maintaining his signature falsetto embellishments. However, there were few moments to fully appreciate his talent as the weight of the performance was distributed among multiple individuals and a lengthy 14-song setlist. Alicia Keys, stunning in a red cape and leotard, brought a much-needed calmness with her rendition of “If I Ain’t Got You,” although she did overpower Usher in their duet of “My Boo.” Jermaine Dupri pumped up the crowd with a shortened version of “Confession Part II” (though it must be noted that anything less than the full song would be disappointing). HER dazzled on electric guitar for “Bad Girl” and “U Got It Bad.” Will.i.am provided the backbone for “OMG,” while the rest of the performers were on wheels.
Prior to the performance, Usher made two promises: to remove his shirt and incorporate roller skates. His shirtless performance of “Burn” was exciting, lively, and enjoyable. However, his use of roller skates during “OMG” was both exhilarating (with backup dancers executing impressive splits) and tense (as Usher seemed on the verge of a mishap). The choreography, which involved a visibly off-balance Usher, was intercut with Lil Jon’s rendition of “Turn Down for What” and shaky camera footage of the in-crowd. This made me yearn for Rihanna’s effortless yet commanding performance from the previous year, where her lack of interest in choreography added a cooling effect to the typically intense pace of the show.
However, there is strength in numbers when it comes to this show. The impressive lineup of songs, dancers, collaborators, nostalgia, hype, and skills all came together for a triumphant finale. Usher, Lil Jon, and Ludacris closed out the show with a powerful performance of their radio hit “Yeah!” while dressed in gladiator-inspired outfits. It was like the Avengers of early 2000s dance parties, complete with a family-friendly mix of Lil Jon’s “Get Low.” The energy was so high that the stage was literally bouncing. Usher’s beaming smile and melismatic vocals were the perfect ending to a 30-year career of delivering top-notch entertainment.