Usher moves Las Vegas residency, shares love for Atlanta

Credit: Getty Images for Dolby Live at Park MGM

Credit: Getty Images for Dolby Live at Park MGM

‘Atlanta influences everything,’ said the R&B superstar.

For three decades, Usher has performed on stages across the globe and topped the charts with music that spans R&B, hip-hop, pop and EDM. The teen idol-turned-megastar knew his return to the Las Vegas strip should treat his audience to the same journey and imagination he experienced in his rise to become a veteran talent.

The eight-time Grammy-winning entertainer premiered his appropriately-titled sophomore residency, “My Way,” on Friday, July 15 at Dolby Live at Park MGM. The two-hour production is his own jukebox musical that meshes together cabaret-style dance numbers choreographed by Rio and Amy Allen, takes a trip to a Magic City-like strip club, a stroll down the French Quarter in New Orleans, worships Orishas in West Africa, and does a few laps on skates at Cascade or Golden Glide.

Credit: Getty Images for Dolby Live at P

Credit: Getty Images for Dolby Live at P

With creative direction duties split between Outside the Box Amusements and Aakomon Jones, “My Way,” named for Usher’s 1997 second LP, is a way of transporting his fans to places in history where Black culture and entertainers were appreciated.

“There’s a bit more sophistication,” Usher, 43, said. “We dressed it up a little bit differently but yet just as much glitz and glam. All of these places that I’m showing you are places where our culture was celebrated whether it’s the Harlem Renaissance, speakeasies, Black Wall Street in Tulsa or Parisian clubs.”

“I want to give you all of the things that you could easily forget if you don’t remember the sophistication of who we are, where we come from, and how it feels when we put things on,” Usher adds.

Usher abandons the asymmetric haircut and opulent Balmain costuming from his first rodeo at Caesars Palace in favor of a low fade, purple velvet (and satin) ensembles, rhinestone shoes, and classic showmanship. The chart topper takes center stage from an illuminated elevator gripping both a cane and platinum-colored microphone backed by a horn section, full band, DJ Mars on the turntables and dancers in vintage suits and flapper attire to the Neptunes-produced “I Don’t Know.”

Credit: Getty Images for Dolby Live at Park MGM

Credit: Getty Images for Dolby Live at Park MGM

Pairing Lil Jon with IZ Avila as musical directors, Usher breezes through those monster hits (including “Caught Up,” “Love in This Club,” “DJ Got Us Fallin’ in Love,” “Confessions Part II,” and “Burn”); throws in a few of his guest appearances (Chris Brown’s “Party” and their other duet “New Flame,” Lil Jon’s “Lovers and Friends,” Summer Walker’s “Come Through,” and David Guetta’s “Without You”); and even reimagines a few of his music videos (“U Remind Me” and “Yeah!”) with the help of video designer FragmentNine and lighting designer John Torres.

Usher threw in some catalog curveballs like “Trading Places,” “Lemme See,” “That’s What It’s Made For,” his 1994 debut single “Can U Get Wit It,” and his cameo on rapper Wale’s “The Matrimony” when he performed from the audience midway through the show.

He doesn’t have any harsh words about his successful run at Caesars Palace last year but decided to relocate to Dolby Live because he wanted to expand his artistic vision on the venue’s round staging.

Credit: Getty Images for Dolby Live at P

Credit: Getty Images for Dolby Live at P

“This room calls for something different, and there was an opportunity for me to play and do things that I haven’t done before,” Usher said. “I was welcomed with open arms to have Dolby Live as a space to experiment, try new things, and they were open to it.”

Stepping back onto the Vegas stage came as Usher was already a peak viral sensation. Clips of the dancer moving both of his index and middle fingers across his eyes during his appearance on NPR’s Tiny Desk Concert to close out Black Music Month in June became the subject of countless memes.

Credit: Getty Images for Dolby Live at Park MGM

Credit: Getty Images for Dolby Live at Park MGM

While Usher appreciates being a trending topic, that performance gave him the chance pre-Vegas to showcase his staying power. “It comes with the pressure of trying to continue to do this,” Usher said.

“It’s not about the lights or the dance moves, but it’s really about the music. People got a chance to see something they haven’t seen in awhile. Tiny Desk gives that opportunity for you to really know the artist vocally.”

Posts across social media keep campaigning for Usher to compete in a Verzuz battle against Chris Brown. The singer isn’t certain if he’ll ever do one but acknowledges the synergy between he and Brown.

“Nobody wants me in a Verzuz, and I don’t know that I have to,” Usher said, “but me and Chris Brown are really, really close. It’s a lil’ bruh/big bruh relationship, and the celebration of our legacies start with recognizing and celebrating each other.”

Usher has warmed up for his return to Vegas in and around Atlanta this year. The vocalist appears on the City Girls’ latest single “Good Love.” He stepped onstage at Mary J. Blige’s Strength of a Woman Fest, Tyler Perry’s closing party for his television shows at Tyler Perry Studios, and the second Beloved Benefit with Maroon 5 at Mercedes-Benz Stadium.

Accepting those personal invitations gave the humanitarian the chance to align his own personal mission with music and relationships he’s cultivated throughout his career.

“They’re all good friends of mine and things I wanted to support as a community builder,” said Usher, whose youth-driven nonprofit Usher’s New Look celebrates its 23nd anniversary this year. “Vocally it was a good warm up, but I didn’t get a chance to dance as much as I would’ve wanted to. I still had to do the work here at Dolby Live. I’m doing everything in this show.”

What hasn’t changed about Usher is his undying love for the city of Atlanta. Bringing the last three decades of his life together for his current Vegas run is his way to expose the strip to the city’s vibrant culture.

“Atlanta influences everything,” said Usher, whose upcoming ninth studio album is executive produced by L.A. Reid. “We are like nothing else that you will ever see or experience. That influence that comes from the South may have been forgotten, but whenever I’m on the stage, I’m gonna remind you of it and take you all the way back to the roots of it.”


IF YOU GO

Usher - My Way: The Vegas Residency

July 15-16, 20-23, 27 and 29-30; Aug.26,27 and 31; Sept. 3-4, 7 and 9-10; Oct. 12, 14-15, 21-22, 26 and 28-29. $79-$1,500. Dolby Live at Park MGM, 3770 S. Las Vegas Blvd., Las Vegas, Nevada. parkmgm.mgmresorts.com.