Judge Clark Douglas is currently planning a WTF tour.
Live from London.
When I think of Usher, the first thing that springs to mind is one of my former co-workers. He had a teenage son who was a devoted Usher fan; a fact which caused my disappointed co-worker to wax endlessly about how, "the kids today will fall all over themselves for that Usher nonsense, but try to give them some real music like Al Green or Parliament-Funkadelic and they just laugh." The second thing which springs to mind is Usher's megahit "Yeah!," which anyone who has attended a sporting event in the past few years should be intimately familiar with. Alas, that's pretty much the extent of my Usher knowledge. Sure, I've heard other songs and seen him perform on various TV programs here and there, but he never really made much of an impression on me one way or the other.
All of that changed with the Usher: OMG Tour. I can't really say that my feelings about Usher as a musician have changed (his music is neither particularly grating or involving; it's just sort of there), but he's quite a performer. He enters the concert dressed in an exceptionally peculiar outfit which looks like a collaboration between The Road Warrior, Will.i.am and Tron. The first portion of the concert has a distinctly futuristic/post-apocalyptic vibe. It was difficult to find a connection between the songs and the staging, but no matter. It caught my attention.
"Attention-grabbing" seems to be the best way to describe the concert, as it proceeds in a rather unconventional, surprisingly sensual manner. Usher spends very little time actually talking to the audience between songs, as he's more concerned with physically seducing them. You'll be treated to numerous PG-13 stripteases over the course of the concert, as the singer slowly peels off a variety of shirts and flexes his muscles while gazing longingly into the eyes of the ladies in the front row. These interludes didn't do a whole lot for me, but your mileage may vary. Never fear, there's plenty of eye candy for viewers of all sorts, as Usher surrounds himself with a quartet of scantily-clad female dancers who writhe and wriggle around in enthusiastically distracting fashion. Every now and then, Usher and the ladies will participate in a romantically-themed sketch. It's an interesting approach, but these earnest moments veer closer to goofy than sensual.
"The King of R&B" offers a blend of older and newer material in his 81-minute set. The big hits ("Yeah," "Love in This Club," "Nice and Slow," "You Make Me Wanna," etc.) are well-represented, as are tracks from Usher's 2010 album "Raymond v. Raymond" ("Monstar," "Hey Daddy (Daddy's Home)," "There Goes My Baby," "Lil' Freak," "OMG"). He moves from one song to the next at a fairly rapid pace, only pauses for stripping, sketches or enthusiastic cries of "LOOOONDOOOON!" (the concert was filmed at London's O2 Arena).
Usher: OMG Tour (Blu-ray) offers a rather handsome 1080i transfer. Despite a heavier-than-usual amount of fireworks, bright lights and garish colors, there's considerable clarity throughout. The level of detail is impressive; you can see every drop of sweat on Usher's face (speaking of which, the man sweats as much as any entertainer I've seen; he seems to shake off buckets at the end of every song). Black levels are solid and shadow delineation is strong. The DTS HD 5.1 Master Audio track is where this release really excels, as the music is given an immersive, aggressive, room-rattling mix. The instrumentation gets a little muddy at times, but that's due to the arrangement and not this particular mix. Crowd noise is included in a prominent yet unobtrusive way. This is a big, swanky concert and it certainly has a mix which represents it nicely. Supplements are to a 20-minute making-of featurette called "On the Shoulders of Giants" and a 3-minute PSA for Usher's New Look Foundation. One note: Eagle Rock does consistently good work with these concert releases, but why do they continually insist on factoring the bonus features into the listed running time? It's a slightly deceptive approach which may leave some fans feeling a little short-changed.
Even though I still wouldn't call myself an Usher fan, I found the concert an interesting, modestly enjoyable watch. Those who dig his brand of R&B will have a ball. The Blu-ray looks and sounds strong, too.
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Scales of Justice
Studio: Eagle Rock Entertainment
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