Usher's Super Bowl Halftime: Keys, Lil Jon, H.E.R. and Skates

Usher's performance last night at the Super Bowl was a lot. Maybe a bit more than some at home could handle.

With his allotted 13 minutes, Usher Raymond IV knocked out 14 songs, passed the mic to six special guests, had several costume changes, including throwing on a pair of roller skates. He did this while drenched in sweat and all being accompanied by a live band, dancers, and a marching band.

In many ways it was the antithesis of Rihanna's mostly-solo Super Bowl set from last year.

Last night's thrilling Super Bowl took place at Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas, a city Usher has spent quite a while in over the last few years. He recently concluded a 100+ show residency on the famous Strip.

Usher brought much of that over-the-top energy to the football field Sunday night as he quickly ran through highlights from his 30-year career that's yielded eight Grammys and sold over 100 million albums.

Kicking off with "Caught Up," CBS' cameras pushed through a congested collection of showgirls, acrobats, dudes on stilts, and dancers holding frozen poses.

Once the unblinking eye made it to Usher, dashingly sporting an all-white Liberace-esque ensemble, the funky beats of the marching band of Jackson State University kicked in. Yes, there they were again, The Sonic Boom of the South, who earlier this month accompanied Drake in Tampa.

What came next was non-stop action with "U Don't Have To Call" and a taste of "Superstar."

When "Love in This Club" kicked in, the hope was either a fully programmed Rock-afire Explosion would appear at the 50-yard line or a live-action version of the talented Chuck E. Cheese animatronics would materialize.

But the night would not be overshadowed by such a spectacle; nor a guest appearance by Usher's protege, Justin Bieber, who was in the facility, and dancing, but way up in the sky box with his betrothed.

Instead, standing at an impossibly shaped Dr. Seussian red piano, was Alicia Keys who performed "If I Ain't Got You," the Grammy-winning tune Usher dueted with her for the 2004 remix.

Then the sexy pair sang "My Boo," also from 20 years ago, which went #1 for Keys.

During this segment, Usher's hands got extremely close to the married woman in a form-fitting sparkly outfit, who didn't seem to mind one bit.

Next Usher's longtime producer and collaborator Jermaine Dupri came out to introduce "Confessions" in a fascinating getup that looked like a tux that either got shrunk in the dryer or had just been ordered from the Angus Young collection for Lads.

Twitter was amused.

The gifted guitarist H.E.R., who collaborated with Usher on "Risk It All" from December's The Color Purple soundtrack, joined him and brought a little six-string solo work to his 2001 #1 hit, "U Got It Bad."

Meanwhile some broke into a bad Abbott & Costello bit:
Who's that?
That's H.E.R.
Yes, her. Right there. Who is she?

Others, painfully, thought the 26-year-old 5x Grammy-winner and Oscar recipient was 10 year-old North West.

Blame the speed of the medlies or the futuristic headpiece and wraparound sunglasses, but when the far-more recognizable came out to do a brief cameo on "OMG," he was roundly confused as North's daddy, Kanye.

All of this led to the biggest confusion of the night.

Was it well-known that this 45-year-old man, who we know is a world-class dancer, is also fantastic on roller skates?

OMG, indeed.

What followed was another journey into the land of confusion.

While everyone knew that was Lil Jon yelling the chorus to "Turned Down For What," people had a hard time seeing him. Poor Jon was surrounded in the crowd, which made it hard for cameramen and attendees to find the beloved king of Crunk.

Try to find Lil Jon in that crowd. Don't feel bad if you can't.

All in all it was an excellent halftime show, probably best seen in repeated screenings now that viewers have learned who they saw.

Usher will now take a little break, but will be back in North American arenas in the back half of 2024 with his Past Present Future Tour. Tickets go on sale today, including his four-night stand at the soon-to-be completed $2 billion Intuit Dome in Inglewood. The future home of the LA Clippers.

Tickets are available on Usher's website.

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Last updated: 29 Feb 2024, 22:00 Etc/UTC