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Usher shines at Super Bowl half-time show – BBC News

  • By Steven McIntosh
  • Entertainment reporter

Image source, Getty Images

R&B star Usher delivered a hit-heavy half-time show at Sunday’s Super Bowl – with help from will.i.am, Alicia Keys, Ludacris… and a pair of roller skates.

A disclaimer shown before the performance jokingly warned viewers it may cause “singing, dancing, sweating, gyrating, and possible relationship issues”. It would go on to deliver on all fronts.

Dressed in all-white and surrounded by a swarm of energetic dancers, Usher emerged on the stage at the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas and launched straight into one of his best-known songs, Caught Up.

It kicked off a dynamic performance which took advantage of the 45-year-old’s dancing skills and sizeable back catalogue.

Before his half-time show, Usher admitted it had been “a challenge to squeeze 30 years in to 13 minutes”. But the singer did an admirable job of cramming in as many of his most recognisable songs as possible.

The set features acrobats and a brass band so large there were enough members to spell out “USHER” on the grounds of the stadium as he was performing.

The singer switched effortlessly between the two apexes of his music: club anthems and sex jams.

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption,

Usher and his dancers performed a routine from his Vegas residency using roller skates

Some songs ran for a full verse and a chorus, others for just a few seconds. A tiny snippet of Superstar appropriately saw him sing only the lyrics: “Spotlight / big stage / 50,000 fans screaming in a rage” – as if to hammer home the magnitude of his Super Bowl show.

The dancers who surrounded him – many of whom had only travelled a short distance from his Vegas residency – wore colourful, even outlandish outfits, perfectly complementing his central performance and adding to the sense of spectacle.

Once Usher was a few songs deep and well into his groove, he took a back seat as his first guest, Alicia Keys, appeared behind a bright red piano wearing a matching sparkly red outfit, launching into one of her own biggest hits If I Ain’t Got You.

The pair then joined forces to perform their duet My Boo – providing one of the sweetest moments in a performance full of reunions as the pair joyously recreated their 2004 smash.

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption,

Alicia Keys appeared on stage behind a giant red piano and began performing her hit If I Ain’t Got You

Image caption,

The pair then joined forces for a rendition of their 2004 duet My Boo

After the song had drawn to a close and Keys was whisked away, the other guest stars started coming thick and fast.

Producer-rapper Jermaine Dupri joined Usher for a quick blast of Confessions Part II – and prompted one of the night’s viral trends as some viewers made light of the way his suit exposed his bare legs.

The fact that ballads were blended so seamlessly with club anthems gave Usher moments to catch his breath, as well as show off his vocal prowess and, crucially, take his shirt off.

But even when performing two of his most famous slow jams, Burn and U Got It Bad, Usher couldn’t stand still – jerking his body to the rhythm and commanding the attention of an entire stadium.

Image caption,

Flames were projected on the stage and around the stadium as Usher performed Burn

During Burn, flames were projected onto the huge circular platform he was performing on – one of the most visually striking moments of the night.

Usher’s other guests included H.E.R. – who played a rousing guitar solo during U Got It Bad before launching into the recognisable riff of Bad Girl as Usher disappeared for a costume change.

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption,

H.E.R. performed the famous guitar riff from Bad Girl as Usher disappeared for a costume change

The singer re-emerged wearing a glittery black-and-blue outfit complete with roller skates as he introduced will.i.am for their collaboration OMG – a song title which reflected the crowd’s reaction.

Usher recreated the skating sequence which had become a viral highlight of his recent Vegas residency – and impressively managed not to fall over.

The only drawback in an otherwise flawless half-time show was that the number of cameo appearances in the second half almost began to work against the singer.

While a rumoured collaboration with Justin Bieber failed to materialise, Usher was nearly crowded out as dancers and star guests packed the stage.

Lil Jon appeared for a slightly random but entirely welcome detour into his own anthemic hit Turn Down For What. But his arrival on stage made obvious to fans what was coming next.

By the time a charismatic Ludacris appeared, anticipation was at fever pitch. The trio launched into a pulsing rendition of Usher’s career-defining hit Yeah!

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption,

Front row left to right: Ludacris, Usher, Lil Jon and Jermaine Dupri

A number one around the world in the mid-noughties and an undeniable banger, the song provided the perfect climax in a half-time show full of highlights.

Watching Usher’s set was US megastar Taylor Swift, rapper Jay-Z, Hollywood actor Paul Rudd and former basketball players LeBron and James Shaquille O’Neal.

Which songs did Usher perform?

Image caption,

Usher was surrounded by a swarm of dancers throughout the show

  • Caught Up
  • U Don’t Have To Call
  • Superstar
  • Love in this Club
  • If I Ain’t Got You – duet with Alicia Keys
  • My Boo – duet with Alicia Keys
  • Confessions Part II – feat. Jermaine Dupri
  • Burn
  • U Got It Bad – feat. H.E.R.
  • Bad Girl (interlude) – performed by H.E.R.
  • OMG – duet with will.iam
  • Turn Down For What – performed by Lil Jon
  • Yeah! – feat. Lil Jon and Ludacris

Sunday’s performance was not Usher’s first appearance at the Super Bowl – the singer previously appeared as a special guest with the Black Eyed Peas in 2011.

His return to the NFL helpfully coincides with the release of his latest album Coming Home over the weekend.

Taylor Swift watches on

Image source, Getty Images

Image caption,

Rapper Ice Spice (left) and actress Blake Lively (right) joined Taylor Swift to watch the game from the stands

Fans had speculated about whether Swift would make it at all – the singer was in Tokyo the night before playing a concert as part of her Eras Tour.

But in the event, she made it to Las Vegas in plenty of time to see the Chiefs face off against the San Francisco 49ers.

The US megastar wore an all-black outfit and watched the game alongside actress Blake Lively, rapper Ice Spice, and her mother Andrea Swift.

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