Usher brings world tour to Joe Louis Arena on Dec. 2Written by Alan Sculley | | ASculley@toledofreepress.com
Usher may still be a young man at the age of 32, but he has hinted in recent interviews (including one earlier this year in The New York Times) that his days as a touring live performer may be over by the time he hits his 40s.
But as he stressed in an early November phone interview, he has no intention of disappearing from the concert stage — much less his career as one of the major figures in R&B music.
“I’ll be able to still do that, perform live, until I’m 50,” Usher said, a statement that is sure to reassure his fans. “My point is, I would also choose to do other things, and other aspects of business that I’d like to be in, things I’d like to venture in. You know, as I introduce talent, as I develop talent, I would never want to feel as though that’s my only option.
“So at 50, you know, I hope that all the business that I’ve built allows me to, you know, go and hit the stage at my discretion,” he said. “I want to be able to have the ability to do that, but I also want to be mindful of all the other things that I’ve done.”
The man born Usher Raymond IV is well on his way to achieving that kind of lucrative multifaceted career. Six full-length albums into his career, he is among the most popular R&B artists going, and widely considered one of music’s more magnetic live performers. He will play the Joe Louis Arena in Detroit on Dec. 2.
He has his own line of fragrances. Usher also has his own label, US Records, and is active in developing the careers of several young artists, most notably the hugely popular teen pop sensation Justin Bieber, who’s signed to US Records.
For Usher, who himself was mentored earlier in his career by the late superstar Michael Jackson, it’s been a mostly steady rise since he arrived on the national scene with his 1994 self-titled release, when he was just 16.
The two most recent Usher CDs have presented starkly different sides of the singer.
The spring 2008 CD, “Here I Stand,” came after Usher had married Tameka Foster and had a son, Usher Raymond V. It presented a more mature Usher, who was cherishing romantic stability and the joys of family life.
The couple went on to have a second son, Naviyd Ely, in December 2008, but only six months later Usher filed for divorce saying the couple had been living separately for the previous year.
“Raymond v Raymond” (released in March) and its companion EP, “Versus” (released in August), found Usher taking a step back to the single man persona of his earlier CDs, with many of the songs centered on being free and unattached and the various benefits that come with that.
“Here I Stand” was a successful CD (1.5 million copies sold in the U.S. alone), but didn’t even approach the sales of 2004’s “Confessions.” Some have speculated that Usher thought some of his fan base wasn’t as keen on the committed family man of that 2008 album and prefer the more footloose and fancy free Usher of earlier albums, and now the two latest releases. Usher, though, would only say he considers both “Here I Stand” and “Raymond v Raymond/Versus” to be personal and honest statements.
“I think that every album that I make is intended to give you a different facet of my personality and also speak to what I feel, where I am, and what my interpretation of art is at that time,” he said. “For every album, there is a different experience, you know, one not being greater than the other, but it all being intertwined as an incredible story in time. When I stop, I hope to be able to look back at all of my albums put together and feel as though I’m looking at an autobiographical musical experience.”
With his OMG Tour, Usher isn’t merely out to entertain his fans, he’s shooting to make an indelible impact that will elevate him to the level of a concert icon.
“The overarching impression that I’d like to leave is that, you know, this guy is really stepping it up to a level where, you know, people can hopefully compare him to people like Michael Jackson, and great entertainers of the past,” Usher said.
“I’ve put the time into creating an incredible show, but also I give it all,” he said. “I leave it on the stage. I give you the energy. I basically tear myself apart emotionally, energetically, you know, connecting with you and making sure that you enjoy this moment and leave saying ‘OMG, Oh My God.’”
The visual presentation promises to be a spectacle, as Usher described his stage show as state-of-the-art and said he will perform his back catalog hits as well as a cross section of material from “Raymond v Raymond/Versus.”
“The look of the tour, it’s a little futuristic, but enough to capture your attention and leave you saying ‘OMG.’ That’s the whole point,” he said.
And yes, there will be plenty of another Usher concert trademark — his dancing.
“Oh, man, dancing is definitely a part of the tour,” Usher said. “You can’t have me without that ingredient. I wanted to stick to some of the choreography that you’ve seen in the videos. And for the songs that never had a video, you know, introduce a new style, a new energy.
“Whenever there are segues, I’ll also use music to transition us from one thing to the next,” he said. “I wanted to make you feel as though you were watching a movie, watching a live movie experience. I’m like a superhero in this show and I do all of my own stunts.”