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Concert Reviews:
Usher fans "Experience" hits, misses at Palace show

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Wednesday, November 5, 2014

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AUBURN HILLS -- Looking up towards the roof of The Palace on Tuesday night, Nov. 5, Usher acknowledged the Detroit Pistons' championship banners -- a magnanimous gesture from a guy who is, after all, the part-owner of the rival Cleveland Cavaliers.

But, he noted firmly, "If you don't mind, tonight this is Usher's house." And for nearly two hours the multi-faceted singer certainly filled the arena with his particular alchemy of R&B, hip-hop and pop and charistmatic showmanship -- to, perhaps, a fault.

The UR Experience Tour is an odd one for Usher Raymond IV, who last came through these parts three years ago. His "UR" album, ostensibly due out this fall, is still a work in progress, so the show was designed as a combination celebration and contextualization, a chance to take stock of 20 years of hitmaking -- 65 million albums sold and 15 Top 10 hits -- as well as bit of a nod towards the future with new material such as "She Came To Give It To You" and "Good Kisser." It's a big task, and while Usher and company (a nine-piece band, five backup singers and eight dancers) hit plenty of high points, there was a discernible lack of focus and a sense of randomness that rendered the show decidedly hit-and-miss.

On the plus side, Usher showed off plenty of his attributes, including his dynamic, kinetic dancing and easygoing rapport with the crowd; at one point, after asking how many single women were in the crowd, he told the single men, "Y'all came to the right place...Don't say I never gave you nothin'."

The music, meanwhile, hit best on slinky versions of "You Make Me Wanna..." and "Lil Freak," tight renditions of "She Came To Give It To You" and a sweaty, extended workout on "Twisted." And a stripped-down segment that included lighter treatments of "There Goes My Baby" and "U Got it Bad" was a welcome change of pace. But that was counter-balanced by messy, megamix-style arrangements of "My Way," "OMG" and "Love In This Club," some languid mid-show pacing and speed bumps -- including an interminable vamp through "Good Kisser" that wore out its welcome even before Usher called out each of the dancers for a solo spot.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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