Last night Usher took the Minnesota State Fair Grand Stand stage with a deep catalog of hits and an army of fans ready to sing along with every word. The late addition of Lil Jon to the line-up made for a notable increase in anticipation among the Usher faithful, and the two iconic heavyweights more than delivered for a night of nostalgia and consistency.
Here's our Five Takeaways:
1) Watch the Duck gave us a lot to watch, and a duck
Opening act Watch the Duck, a Los Angeles-based trapstep trio gave an extended almost hour-long supporting set that included Oasis and Tears For Fears covers, film clips from the forgotten 1993 Brad Pitt film Cool World and a duck mascot twerking. While the reception was mixed, it did deliver on plenty of "Well, I've never seen that at the Fair before" moments.
2) Usher keeps it real
When seeing someone as ubiquitous as Usher, a performer that has dominated pop culture over the past two decades, one thinks they might know what to expect. But, once he's there in front of you, without the filter of a camera or the media's smoke-and-mirrors, you realize how truly talented he is. With only a small handful of back-up dancers, the minimalist concert showcased Usher's marvelous dancing and hypnotizing abs.
3) Seriously, that was his real voice
The most impressive element of the show, by far, is Usher's uninterrupted 75 minutes of live singing. As Lil Jon exclaimed, "make some noise for real [explicit] singing!" Usher took his time fleshing out 20 years of hits, bringing them to life with only the sparsest usage of backing tracks. Truly a sight to behold, they don't make 'em like King Ush anymore.
4) Lil Jon is a national treasure, and a quality chum
Three songs into Usher's set, he brought out Lil Jon (whom he's never officially toured with) to perform a handful of his own hits as Usher left the stage. Jon's whipping of the crowd into a frenzy on 15-year-old new classics like "Get Low" was irresistible, and set a quality foundation for Usher to bounce around his own catalog. But, most notable was the very real friendship between the two. It was disarming to see them talk, not banter, but really have an affectionate conversation on stage, and then hearing Lil Jon cheer Usher on between the songs he had no hand in. These endearing moments saw the larger-than-life characters reveal the relatable companionship that made the night feel extra special.
5) 20 years of Usher for all of his "Day Ones"Usher made it a point several times to acknowledge his "Day One" fans, and even went back long enough in his catalog to pull out tracks like "Nice and Slow," released, presumably, before many attendant's actual day one on Earth. Given how rarely Usher comes to Minnesota (this was only his fourth appearance since 2002) he succeeded in satisfying by tapping into every era in which he's soundtracked our lives. Usher's a superstar, but managed to make the State Fair intimate, while he and Lil Jon had a blast along the way. YEAH!