Yeah! Usher’s back!
Performing at the Sepang International Circuit during the recent Formula 1 Petronas Malaysia Grand Prix after-race concert and six years after his last visit to Malaysia, sexy showman Usher proved that he still has the moves.
The show started at 5pm with Universal Music’s stable of local talents – Natasha Saas, Fazura, Modescape and Backtobasixx – getting the crowd warmed up. The man-of-the-hour made his appearance at almost 8pm.
After an afternoon of roaring machines and screeching tyres, the Grammy winner’s smooth vocals were greeted with wolf whistles and of course, loud cheers.
As if making up for lost time, Usher sped through a catalogue of more than 20 songs spanning over two decades. Most of the crowd favourites from his earlier records like 8701 and Confessions were included, but the American R&B hitmaker was obviously keen on showcasing new album Hard II Love.
Promising to do the obligatory hits, he charmed his way into performing unfamiliar tracks with a warm smile and a very polite, “I hope you don’t mind if I sing some new songs.”
It didn’t matter that not many knew the lyrics, the crowd clapped and screamed all the same but they saved their loudest applause for hits like OMG, Yeah!, Without You, DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love, Burn, You Make Me Wanna, U Got It Bad, My Boo and, of course, Crush – his duet with Yuna.
The man not only managed to cram all that music into that hour plus show, he was also quite chatty. The downside was that most of the songs were not performed in full and there was quite a bit of pre-recorded stuff too.
Despite the sweltering heat, Usher also showcased his other talent – dancing. The guy was sweating so much, the stage had to be mopped! “It’s really hot up here. I’m sweating like crazy,” he said. Guess he finally realised the jacket and beard weren’t a very good idea.
Ever the tease, he flashed his famous washboard abs but sadly, the decent gentleman decided to keep his clothes on for the rest of the night.
There were lots of “Yeaaahs” and “Uhhhs” which worked like magic mantras to get the crowd excited but Usher had a lot of deep stuff he wanted to share too. Mind you, it wasn’t the usual “I love Malaysia” banter. Baring his soul, Usher talked about his eighth studio release.
“I looked myself in the mirror and made a decision. I chose to love. I can’t be blaming people in my life for past relationships because I played a part in them too. I didn’t want to be enemies anymore.”
Clearly, love was the night’s theme.
And when the man with the killer falsettos says, “I want to tell you that I love you. And it’s OK if we haven’t met because inside we are all the same. You are my brothers and my sisters. I can’t do what I do on stage without you”… you believe him.
The most serious note of the night came when Usher brought up recent shootings and minority rights in the US. “I’m devastated with what’s going on in my country. The loss of black lives, law enforcement, minority rights. Shootings. Fear.” The world, he says, needs love and despite our differences, it’s love that will see us through. Wise words indeed.
There was no encore, but that’s OK. He left us with a bit of wisdom and a lot of love.