'Like being front row at a Wembley Stadium performance'
Will Lavin
22:37 2nd September 2012

Back for its sixth year, the Roundhouse in Camden last night opened its doors for the iTunes Festival 2012. Not content with starting off low key, it was R&B sensation Usher who kicked things off.

With a career that spans over 20 years which has seen him sell over 20 million records in the United States alone, Usher Raymond is the epitome of a certified musical icon. Not only has he performed with the likes of Michael Jackson and Beyonce, he was one of the few who sung at President Obama’s inauguration, and he also signed and presented to the world a little known pop star by the name of Justin Bieber.

Before Usher set foot on the stage however, the audience were treated to a performance from R&B newbie Miguel. While not so new Stateside, it was pretty obvious he was a stranger to this audience judging from their lack of musical knowledge concerning his songs and lyrics. Dressed in a purple suit and sporting a remixed version of the high top fade with curls, Miguel’s performance was without doubt exceptional.

Running through familiar hits ‘Quickie‘, ‘Adore‘, and ‘Girls Like You’, his extended version of ‘Sure Thing‘ seemed to be received much better than some of his other offerings. Introducing his new album, he zipped through a few new cuts, paid homage to 2Pac by rapping along to ‘I Get Around’, and also performed a stripped down version of his most recognisable smash ‘All I Want Is You’.

Complete with full band, exceptional lighting, and backdrop screen usage, his stage presence was impeccable. Very impressed with his performance it was just a shame that those in attendance either lacked knowledge, weren’t interested, or were just plain ignorant, the latter definitely came in to play judging from some of the comments circling the room. With obvious Prince and James Brown influences, missing him on stage is not something you want to do in future.

With the two huge raised back facing screens projecting a countdown to the official start of the iTunes Festival, girls could be heard screaming from every angle of the room - Usher has just a few female fans if you didn’t know. An artistic screen backdrop, which looked as if it were tattoo inspired, ran across the back of the stage. After a brief musical introduction it was showtime. Sprinting on to the stage opening with ‘Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop’, Usher complete with eight backing dancers took the audience’s attention hostage.

Any worries wondering if Usher could compact his stadium artistry in to the miniature venue that is the Roundhouse could be diminished the second ‘OMG’ hit speakers. Choreographed to within an inch of its life, the song played second fiddle to Usher’s trademark dance moves.

Throughout the entire performance Usher had the packed crowd eating out of the palm of his hand. With comic skits, dance breaks, and even forfeits (Usher did 40 push ups at one point for slipping during a dance move) thrown in to the mix, if a single person came away from last night’s show unhappy then they must have had their eyes closed the entire time. It really was like being front row at a Wembley Stadium performance.

Offering old and new, songs such as ‘Nice & Slow’, ‘Yeah’, and ‘U Don’t Have To Call’ earned as much of a response as the newer hits. ‘Burn’ seemed to get the biggest response from the mostly female populated audience, yet ‘Love In This Club’ was equally as huge due to Usher stepping down to interact with his fans by dipping his hands in to the front row.

Dripping with sweat throughout, there were those moments where, as with most of his shows, Usher’s shirt came off much to the excitement of the masses of female fans. Another moment that seemed to spark a bit of hysteria was when the band played the instrumental to ‘You Make Me Wanna’. Complete with chairs and baseball caps, the original video was recreated on stage. It was an epic moment for those who remember those 90’s moments of R&B bliss.

Closing with ‘Scream’ and performing ‘Climax’ as his encore, it’s only been the first of 30 iTunes Festival shows and this one is going to take some beating. Dance routines aplenty, chiseled abs, and a back catalogue of unforgettable hits, Usher still to this day can musically do no wrong. Born entertainers entertain, and that is exactly what he did.

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Photo: iTunes