LAS VEGAS – Much like Frank Sinatra, Usher did it his way.
Fitting that the first Super Bowl held in the city built on razzle dazzle enlisted the talents of one of the most charismatic showmen of the past three decades.
Usher awed during his 13-minute performance for the Apple Music Super Bowl halftime show and turned Allegiant Stadium into his playground – with a little help from longtime pals and collaborators Alicia Keys, H.E.R., Will.i.am., Lil Jon, Jermaine Dupri and Ludacris.
In his Dolce & Gabbana attire, Usher romped on the circular stage flanked by ramps and rimmed by lights in front of a crowd packed with celebrities including Paul McCartney, Martha Stewart, Fat Joe, Kelly Clarkson, Jimmy Kimmel and Justin Bieber, who had been rumored to join the halftime production.
With a band set up behind him, Usher started his performance on the field, dropping a kingly white coat and slamming into “Caught Up.” Las Vegas showgirls with blue feathers shaded him as he swiveled his hips on his way to the stage.
“We made it! Now, this is for you!” Usher declared.
A slow jam portion of the performance featured his glistening falsetto during “Love in This Club,” before he ceded the spotlight to Keys, clad in a scarlet jumpsuit while playing a matching ruby-red piano. Her own “If I Ain’t Got You” segued into her duet with Usher, “My Boo,” which ended with them in a sweet embrace.
As expected, considering Usher has a 30-year-career to squeeze into less time than a football quarter, he turned to a medley – sporting one white glove possibly in tribute to his idol, Michael Jackson – for “Confessions,” “Nice & Slow” and, with the stadium glowing amber and images of flames licking the screens ringing the building “Burn.”
As many Usher fans anticipated, he indeed stripped off his jacket to showcase those famous abs during “U Got it Bad,” which was augmented by a searing guitar solo from a catsuit-clad H.E.R.
Of course, Usher’s beloved skating routine was a highlight, as he turned the stadium into a party zone with “OMG,” which only escalated with the arrival of Lil Jon, first bringing the bounce with his own stadium stomper, “Turn Down for What.” But even casual fans know that with Lil Jon comes “Yeah!”
Usher spun a ball cap around his head while engaging in more of his liquid moves before Ludacris, wearing a blue and black sparkly outfit to match Usher’s, popped up for his contribution to the adrenalized song, hyped even more by the thundering drums of the Jackson State University “Sonic Boom of the South” marching band on the field.
In the leadup to his first headlining Super Bowl display – he joined the Black Eyed Peas in 2011 as one of the only highlights of their widely derided set – Usher talked about blending elements of his Atlanta history with his more recent Vegas experiences for his performance.
“I’ve been able to bring a great deal of Atlanta and the melting pot it is musically and culturally to Vegas,” he said last week during a press conference to discuss his Super Bowl 58 soiree.
In December, Usher wrapped his most recent Las Vegas residency after 100 sold-out shows.
Some of the stunts staged during his halftime extravaganza, such as the tricky roller skating routine, came from his residency, keeping his promise that he would bring the best of his Vegas shows to the stadium stage.
Usher’s halftime blowout is the culmination of a buzzy week. His long-awaited ninth album, “Coming Home,” dropped Friday and he unveiled dates and details of his Past, Present Future tour that will kick off in Washington, D.C. Aug. 20. Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Monday.