Usher Woos The Ladies With Rugged R&B in New York - Rolling Stone
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Usher Woos The Ladies With Rugged R&B in New York

“My beautiful ladies, I brought you here for one reason,” Usher announced early in his show at New York’s Hammerstein Ballroom Monday night. Judging from the giddy shrieks he received in response, it was clear that most of the ladies in the audience had a pretty good idea what that reason was. For those still unsure, Usher was happy to specify: “A one night stand.”

Over the last 14 years, Usher has gradually transformed from adorable teenager to slow-smoldering sex symbol, he of the impossible abs and irresistible grin. Though his current tour is hopefully billed the “Ladies Only” tour, there were a handful of gentlemen in attendance, most of whom seemed to be reaping the benefits of Usher’s affable wooing. Clearly modeled after the kind of bedroom revues that Marvin Gaye and Teddy Pendergrass consistently delivered in the ’70s, the show was refreshingly short on spectacle and long on showmanship. Dressed for most of the evening in a white dinner jacket and dark sunglasses, Usher and his five-piece backing band transformed his catalog of slow jams into one long quiet storm. His voice was remarkable, clean and steady and sturdy, and he spent much of the evening alternating personas between amiable emcee and old-time crooner.

None of that could last for long, though. During “Trading Places,” a randy dancer in black-and-pink lingerie emerged from the wings to forecefully peel the jacket — then the vest, then the shirt — from Usher’s body, a favor he returned by draping her across the top of his white grand piano. A bit later in the night, Usher pulled a woman from the audience, removed his shirt and proceeded to teasingly feed her chocolate-covered strawberries. “Tonight,” he announced, “you’re representing all of these ladies out here,” he announced. Surely the women in the audience who weren’t a half-inch from Usher’s bare chest appreciated her taking one for the team.

Set list:
“Love in this Club”
“Follow Me”
“U Remind Me”
“This Ain’t Sex”
“That’s What It’s Made For”
“You Got it Bad”
“Trading Places”
“Do Me, Baby” / “Adore”
“Nice ‘N Slow”
“Dot Com”
“Bad Girl”
“You Make Me Wanna”
“I Don’t Know”
“I Want You”
“Confessions Part 2”
“Medley” (“My Boo” / “Back in the Day” / “Think of You” / “I Need a Girl” / “Can U Get Wit It” / “Lovers & Friends”)
“That’s What It’s Made For”
“Here I Stand”

“Caught Up”

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