During the grand opening of his first Las Vegas residency on Friday night (July 16), it was difficult to tell who was having the most fun: Usher or the audience. But there’s no denying that the singer-songwriter has now left his own indelible stamp on The Colosseum at Caesars Palace, home to previous residencies by Celine Dion, Cher, Elton John, Mariah Carey and Rod Stewart.
“This feels so good that I don’t want to close the curtain,” said a beaming Usher surrounded by cast and crew at the end of his sold-out, 90-minute set.
Between then and the time the red velvet curtains opened at around 9:30 p.m., the singer kept a screaming audience on its feet the entire time — beginning with his electrifying entrance in the middle of the audience. Wearing a sparkly blue outfit and declaring, “You’re in Vegas,” Usher launched into a snippet of “My Way” as he strode around the right side of the venue to the stage.
From there, Usher rolled out hit after hit as well as other fan faves curated from a Grammy Award-winning career that began in 1994. The energetic journey down memory lane kicked off with “Caught Up,” followed by “Love in This Club” and “Party” (the Chris Brown song featuring Usher and Gucci Mane). It was a nonstop audience sing-along as Usher and his crew of dancers triggered a slew of oh-wow moments from there, including “Lovers and Friends” and “There Goes My Baby.”
During a segment devoted to his Atlanta roots, Usher donned skates along with his dancers and turned the massive Colosseum stage into a giant roller rink as he performed “Don’t Waste My Time” (featuring Ella Mai). Then in a nod to Magic City, Atlanta’s famous strip club, pole dancers showcased their flexibility amid a shower of Ush bucks to such songs as “I Don’t Mind,” “Bad Girl,” “Good Kisser” and “Back to Sleep” (Chris Brown featuring Usher and Zayn).
Noted Usher at one point, “You all know I was raised in the ‘A’ … it’s the ATL in Vegas.”
Working his way through a playlist that also included “DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love,” “OMG” and, of course, “Yeah.” At one point Usher jumped off stage to interact once more with the audience on “My Boo” and “U Remind Me.” Back on stage, Usher continued to display his own signature and mesmerizing dance skills, especially on “You Make Me Wanna…,” performing alongside four other smooth-moving male dancers.
Another crowd-pleasing moment occurred when Usher simmered his way into the Summer Walker mellow vibe on which he’s featured, “Come Thru,” complemented by sensual interplay between him and a lone female dancer. Rounding out the sexual tension in that segment during which Usher had women screaming thanks to his own suggestive moves: “Bad Habits,” “Nice & Slow” and “Climax.” A major climax of the evening itself arrived with the ballads “Burn” and “Confessions Part II.”
Beyond the depth of his catalog, the thread running throughout the evening was Usher’s showmanship and passion for his art. Except for several quick costume changes, he spent the majority of the show onstage. A close-up of his face flashed on the two giant video screens framing either side of the stage (below each of which were platforms housing the musicians) said it all: Usher grinning ear-to-ear through dripping sweat.
Before closing with a heartfelt performance of “Without You,” the 2011 David Guetta track he guested on, Usher told the audience, “I want to take two seconds to appreciate this moment.” The song was a fitting way to end the show as the singer noted afterwards, “Thank you so much for being here. I couldn’t do this without you.” Capping the evening: a shower of miniature $20 Ush bucks raining down on the sated audience.
Usher – The Las Vegas Residency continues Saturday (July 17) through Aug 14.