Usher’s OMG Tour: Live from London is an 80-minute visual extravaganza that places the focus on dancing and choreography. Usher is a skilled performer and capable vocalist whose great strength is his ability to work a crowd. At the height of his popularity, riding high with his 10-times-platinum album, Confessions, Usher joined the late Godfather of Soul James Brown onstage at the 2005 Grammy Awards. After their fun but awkward mash-up of Usher’s “Caught Up” and Brown’s “Sex Machine,” Brown proclaimed Usher the “Godson.” This was overly charitable to say the least, as Usher’s entire musical concept is quite removed from that of the Godfather of Soul. Sure, Brown danced while on stage but his shows were always first foremost about musicianship and searing vocal intensity.
Usher, with his bevy of back-up dancers and elaborate stage design, is more aligned with the late King of Pop, Michael Jackson. But as seasoned as Usher is, no single element of his presentation comes close to Jackson’s epic vision either. Usher’s best songs sound like filler compared to Jackson’s greatest hits. And as well as Usher moves, his dancing can’t compare with the mercurial ingenuity of Jackson’s footwork. So where does that leave Usher in the pantheon of mega-popular dance pop artists? He’s a charismatic journeyman who has amassed enough success to ensure a high production budget for his shows. The OMG Tour is likely to appeal almost entirely to Usher’s most devoted fans. If that’s not you, I tend to doubt this concert will win you over.
That’s not to say it’s boring, though. The show is well produced, never lacking in visual distractions. This type of pop concert has more in common with a Vegas production than a true, live music show. The musicians are glimpsed in rather fleeting moments. They might as well be hidden in an orchestra pit or something. Most of Usher’s big hits are here, with standouts being a well sung rendition of the “There Goes My Baby,” a relatively recent hit that finds Usher at his most Jackson-esque. “Caught Up” brings down the house even though even though his performance here is kind of lifeless. He uses a gold gun microphone ripped off from Prince, circa 1992. I respect Usher for the seasoned performer he is, but he’s just not original enough to be a truly compelling artist. I wouldn’t even hold that against him if he didn’t seem so hell bent on placing himself as the next in line of legendary R&B artists. He just doesn’t have the chops.
Eagle Rock Entertainment’s Blu-ray release of OMG Tour: Live from London is nothing short of visually stunning, though. The level of detail evident in the 1080i high-definition transfers is truly impressive. Even from a distance, you can practically count the beads of glistening sweat on Usher’s face and body (not that I’d want to do that). The picture remains remarkably sharp even during wide shots incorporating the massive crowd, full stage, and tiny performers seen at a distance. Textures such as the hard, shiny stage floor or the leather jackets Usher wears are well-defined and realistic. Colors are rich and vivid throughout, regardless of the lighting scheme for any given section of the show. There’s simply nothing to complain about with this visual presentation.
Audio options include DTS-HD Master Audio, Dolby Digital 5.1, and LPCM Stereo. I was less impressed with the audio, but that’s not to say it is significantly lacking. The DTS track is just not quite as full bodied as I would expect from a modern concert presentation. The often complex percussion tracks come across a little muddy and ill-defined. Drum-heavy songs like “You Make Me Wanna” give the LFE channel a workout but it sounds like booming bass just for the sake of a heavy bottom end. “Caught Up” unfortunately has a very dead sound to it, almost like we’re just hearing a pre-recorded track. The audience response is mixed appropriately, proving the most “live” element. The heavily synthesized arrangements of Usher’s songs de-emphasize the spontaneity of a live band. But at least the occasional cheering and screams from the huge crowd reminds us we’re watching a live concert and not an elaborately staged music video. The Dolby Digital track is, if anything, heavier on the throbbing low end but a little lacking in definition on the high end.
The “On the Shoulders of Giants” featurette offers a look at the production of the OMG tour that fans will enjoy. The 20-minute piece, presented in high definition, includes a variety of interviews with Usher and other show personnel. The best bits are the brief shots of rehearsal footage that demonstrate just how hard working and driven Usher is. It’s an informative mini-documentary that does a good of presenting Usher as a consummate showman, determined to give his audience a perfect concert experience.
OMG Tour: Live from London is also available as a standard DVD.