NEW YORK — The man who's dubbed himself "Mr. Entertainment" was a virtual blender of body movements at a performance ringing in the release of Confessions, his fourth LP, Monday night at Webster Hall.
In just the opening song, "U Don't Have to Call," Usher remained continually in motion, using his feet to glide across the stage while simultaneously taking off his diamond-encrusted "U" necklace, displaying it to the audience and putting it back without breaking stride. He breakdanced, brushed invisible dirt off his shoulder, popped his collar and stood on his head.
You'd think all that smooth dancing would get the loudest pop out of the ladies in the crowd. But all Usher had to do was momentarily take off his black sunglasses and show his peepers. Go figure.
"After tonight, don't leave your girl 'round me/ True playa for real," he said, starting off the show's barrage of hits. His stage set was large but spare: two huge staircases that led to a revolving platform. He ascended one of the staircases ever so briefly, providing an entrance for "U Remind Me."
"See, the thing about you that caught my eye," he sang, walking down the steps. He continued to draw dance moves from his arsenal, twirling his arm as if he were operating a crank, breakdancing, pausing with an arm and leg in the air as if he were in some new-age jujitsu fighting stance, and of course ending with a handstand in which his legs formed a "U."
After Usher broke it down in dance, he started to break it down in song, singing to his three female dancers. "Aaaaaah, This is why ..." he sang before looking at the ladies, who acted as if they were going to start feeding each other knuckle sandwiches.
But in a display of girl power, the dancers turned toward Usher and started yelling at him, then walked offstage. Usher was unfazed.
"I can't, I can't," he sang, teasing the ending of the song before walking up the steps and closing out, "get with you."
The stage went black and the house lights came on as if the show were over — but Usher was just getting started. "Those were good songs," he said a few minutes later, patting himself on the back after performing "You Make Me Wanna."
The singer then started talking about his new LP, telling the audience that he allowed himself to be more open than ever before.
"I think I lost the love of my life," he continued, presumably referring to ex-girlfriend Chilli of TLC. "What doesn't kill you makes you stronger." A slow beat started playing in the background as he continued his sermon. "I don't think y'all hear me tonight. I said it hurts so bad," he started singing.
"You got it bad, Usher!" a girl yelled up to the singer. But he didn't have it that bad: Rather than launching into "U Got It Bad," he donned a leather jacket and started his next single, "Burn."
"I really wanna work this out, but I don't think ya gonna change/ ... Tell me why I should stay in this relationship when I'm hurting, baby."
After "Burn," Usher told the audience that his former lover wasn't the entire reason their relationship disintegrated. "I gotta be honest, it wasn't all her fault," he said. "It's always two sides to a story."
"Tell us, Ush!" a man in the audience yelled back to him.
He obliged. "These are my confessions," he sang, performing his next song, "Confessions Pt. II."
"Now, this is going to be the hardest thing I think I ever had to do/ Got me talking to myself, asking how am I going to tell you/ 'Bout that chick that I was creepin' with/ Says she's three months pregnant and she's keeping it," he sang, making the universal gesture for an expecting woman, an invisible oval over his stomach.
"Make sure you don't make that mistake, y'all," he advised the audience when the song was over.
Usher exited the stage, but there was still the matter of performing the #1 song in the country, "Yeah!" After a costume change, the singer, wearing a white T-shirt and a sports jacket, came back on singing it. Lil Jon made a surprise appearance, and it wasn't long before Ludacris joined in with his rap about women on the prowl. All three Atlanta reps came to the forefront of the stage — Usher in the middle with his arms around Jon and Cris — and did the A-Town stomp together.
That wasn't the end of their uniform dance movements. "Do the muscle! Do the muscle!" Jon yelled out. "Rock-a-way, rock-a-way, rock-a-way!" As confetti filled the air, Jon continued giving out orders, yelling, "Shake it like a saltshaker! Shake it like saltshaker!" After a bit more dancing, everyone finally exited.
After the show, Jon and Cris kept partying with Usher at the lower Manhattan club BLVD. Jay-Z, Carl Thomas, Joe Budden, Fabolous, MTV's La La, Tyson Beckford, model Melissa Ford, director Little X, DJ Clue, Ja Rule, J-Kwon, actor Michael Rapaport, Jadakiss and Busta Rhymes also attended.
For more on Usher, check out the feature "Souled Out."
For more sights and stories from concerts around the country, check out MTV News Tour Reports.