Since a child, I remember watching Usher at award shows performing and was in awe of his moves, voice and his command of the crowd. That same awe from watching him through a television screen is the same awe I experienced as a 28-year-old watching Usher live for the first time during his “My Way” Las Vegas residency.
The residency is at the Park MGM hotel. The venue is an extremely large half-circle set up with two levels. There were multiple sections ranging from the 100-400 level sections, but only the 400 section was on the second floor. Fans were packed in every section and level.
From the moment you walk in, the DJ is hyping the crowd with the right music. He played peak songs over the years from the 90s to the early 2000s, which helped set the mood for those that witnessed Usher on his come up in the industry.
The opening of Usher’s show was a unique and different touch of crowd involvement because the show started without the crowd realizing it started til two dancers, in particular, graced the stage and hit a series of jazz-styled moves.
Once the two graced the stage, the beginning of “My Way” could be heard across the speaker systems, followed by an eruption of applause and cheers that the event was starting.
Usher emerged behind a moving wall and smoke, dressed in all-white, even down to the bandana across his forehead.
Along with “My Way,” Usher performed a combination of “I Don’t Know,” “Caught Up” and “U Don’t Have to Call” in the opening of the show.
From the first note he sang while emerging behind the wall, it was clear the mic was on and working.
For two hours, Usher sang, danced, skated, did his iconic breakdown-hand stance moment from “U Remind Me,” floated in the air on top of a rising stage for a dramatic performance of “Climax,” and more. He definitely brought Atlanta to Vegas throughout. From the scenery on stage, outfits, dancing styles, pole dancing and skating.
The stage production of the show flowed together perfectly. While watching Usher and their dancers perform, there were moments when new stage setups were brought out but weren’t visible til the lighting became bright. One of those stage setups included a strip club ambiance.
Usher performed a few hits from his catalog during the strip club set up, “I Don’t Mind” and Good Kisser” were among few. However, the moment most pleasing to me during this section, as well as the audience, was when one of the dancers walked out in a white fur coat while the music was transitioning into “Bad Girl.”
Once the dancer dropped the coat and continued walking to the pole, all eyes were on her as she commanded the audience with not only her moves and flexibility on the pole but the way she controlled her body while moving on beat with the claps and song production, versus just Usher’s voice.
Between the hits and album cuts, there wasn’t a moment where the audience was quiet. “Superstar” was of course a moment of everyone giving their best rendition of the now-iconic run. There were also moments when he directedly looked at and sang to the pit crowd that was in the middle of the stage.
At one point, Usher ran into the audience and danced alongside the DJ table in the crowd, singing with just the song track and a mic while dapping up audience members, singing directly to some, and hugging a few. During this moment, he sang “Lemme See,” “Throwback,” “The Matrimony” (which Usher said he wished was on his album), and “U Remind Me,” and a few others.
Of course, there were a few grown folk moments, including Usher performing (and the way in which he was performing) his song “Nice & Slow,” with a lifted shirt and all abs still intact. Another key moment was Usher doing the “watch this” dance while performing “Confessions.”
Usher concluded his show with saved uptempo bops like “OMG” and “YEAH!,” but even towards the end, his energy never shifted. He performed every song as if it was his last, which helped carry the set. For two hours, it did not feel like two hours with his catalog and the performances.
With almost 30 years in the game, Usher showed love to almost every full-length project he has released and acknowledged his growth as an artist and the growth of the fans that have been around over the years. “When I look in this crowd, I see four generations and I’m grateful,” Usher said when speaking to the fans in the audience.
If you have any reservations about planning a trip to see the residency, I’m here to let you know it’s well worth the time and money. Usher went to the school of performing and he not only did that but created a family vibe throughout his entire show. That’s something that can’t be duplicated if it’s not in you.