UNIONDALE, New York — If there's one place where Chris Brown escapes the nimbus cloud of unfortunate headlines that often threatens to rain down on him, it's the stage. He proved that emphatically when he touched down Friday night at New York's Nassau Coliseum (capacity 18,000), the midway mark on his F.A.M.E. Tour.
Away from his Twitter account, even the hidden dangers of his iPhone, Breezy cleared the brush of his personal distractions, and was simply sublime onstage. Rather than calling to mind his pop&B peers, Brown conjured a late Pop King who also battled bad press during his lifetime.
Such is Brown's command that, four albums to his credit, now even the songs on which he's only featured seem to become his own. Suited up in a jacket and tuxedo pants embellished with spangly trim, Chris laid into the hook that turns Ace Hood's "Body 2 Body" from sexy to downright sensual, and had the moves to match. The Coliseum performance space was expansive and divided into three tiers, connected by a series of steps and ladders, with a series of five oversize cylinders at the base, and overhead, a large screen that projected CB music videos as well as a running concert skit that had fans peeking at suggestive messages sent from the star's phone to the squealing girls amassed in the crowd. ("Can I see you tonight?" one of them read.)
He rinsed off and repeated the same feat for his song-stealing chorus on Big Sean's bottle-clinking "My Last," stalking the stage like an MC.
By the time Chris got to the slightly aggressive bedroom ballad "No BS," the white dress shirt and jacket were off, and the squealing had reached fever-pitch. What is it about C.Breezy? Maybe it's that he's right at that moment where he's balancing late-adolescent energy (Brown seemed to bounce on the balls of his feet, his Jordans never quite touching ground) with budding manhood, but he managed to find the perfect dose of sweetness for the down-on-bended-knee songs like "All Back," "She Ain't You" and "Next to You," and then just the right amount of swagger for hard-hitting, dance-heavy hits like "Yeah 3X" and "Look At Me Now."
Chris' tenor is increasingly rich, and on songs from early in his catalog like "With You," he sounded as heartbreakingly sincere (maybe more so) as he does on the 2007 recording. For his Jordin Sparks-assisted "No Air," CB asked the ladies to step in for the onetime "American Idol" winner; they were so good with the lyrics, he paused several times, beaming and cocking his head appreciatively.
"Y'all tired?" he asked the howling fans after tourmate and frequent collaborator Tyga re-emerged for "Deuces" and a thunderous take on the Young Money up-and-comer's "Snapbacks Back" (itself a takeoff of Meek Mill and Rick Ross' spine-tingling "Tupac Back"). "I'm just asking," Breezy laughed in his Virginia drawl, "Y'all want some water?"
Far from tired, the TeamBreezy-devoted, which had basically given up sitting, were fully dancing in the aisles as Brown's troupe of pros — donning a variety of costumes, from Jabbawockeez-style masks to yearbook-worthy Varsity jackets — showed up for nearly 90-minutes' worth of straight street dancing. But they truly elevated the art form during the show-closing "Beautiful People," a transcendent (seriously, listen to it) electro-flavored Benny Benassi production. With the audience bathed in lasers, Chris' floor team, clad in Martian-meets-mummy-style L.E.D. suits, lit up alternately in florescent light patterns. Brown, illuminated himself, descended the multilevel stage and joined them for one of the finest breakdowns in recent memory.
If the F.A.M.E. singer isn't the finest R&B performer of our generation, he's certainly gunning for the title. Think MJ would be proud.
Apart from getting super assists from Tyga and fellow opener T-Pain, who rolled out his radio smashes on Friday, Kelly Rowland made it a co-ed affair. The former Destiny's Child princess was on one Friday night: Flanked by a gang of muscled male dancers, she powered through DC smashes, her hip-hop features ("Dilemma") and solo smashes. Motivation, indeed.
What did you think of the F.A.M.E. Tour? Tell us in the comments!