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.