By Kevin C. Johnson
POST-DISPATCH POP MUSIC CRITIC
Usher needs to watch his back — his heir apparent is here in the increasingly dynamic Chris Brown.
Brown's nearly sold-out concert at the Scottrade Center on Thursday night was a tour-de-force of spectacular showmanship for the still-emerging young artist.
And he didn't even need the high-wattage star power of surprise guest Nelly, who came on at the end of the 90-minute set, to help make that happen.
To accept all this, one must first give Brown a pass in the singing department. Brown's voice is pleasing without being deeply soulful or showy, but he seemed to not call on it so much in concert. Most of the music was pre-recorded as well, with only a drummer and DJ on stage.
Brown, otherwise a consummate live entertainer, had enough going for him elsewhere. In paratrooper-inspired gear, he was lowered onto the stage like Tom Cruise in "Mission: Impossible" for "Wall to Wall," the first single from his latest CD, "Exclusive."
The frills, played out over a bilevel set, included lasers,pyro, costumes and creative use of video projection, including an onstage camera that cast him in extreme close-up.
He even used holograms to conjure up some of his recording partners — Rihanna for their "Umbrella" remix, Lil' Wayne for "Gimme That" and T-Pain for "Kiss Kiss." Brown, a supreme and fluid dancer, also used the hologram to face off against himself in an '80s dance battle. (His dancers included children and St. Louis native John Silver.)
All the extras helped since Brown heavily relied on lesser-known album cuts such as "Damage," "Help Me," "I'll Call Ya" and "Picture Perfect."
The best of all was the special, separate stage set up at the rear of the arena floor. There, Brown and two male dancers hoisted by cables nearly defied gravity on a rotating, tilting circular platform. The effect, played out to "Lottery" and "Take You Down," was tremendous.
Nelly, who rarely pops in onstage during others' concerts here, joined Brown and Bow Wow, one of Brown's support acts, during a shirtless rendition of Nelly's "Hot in Herre" and "Grillz."
Bow Wow, meanwhile, remains more heartthrob than ace performer. But his star power, enthusiasm and personality got him through songs such as "Outta My System," "Let Me Hold You," "Like You" and his verse on "I Think They Like Me."
Bow Wow went it alone on his hit "Girlfriend," a song he recorded with Omarion for their joint "Face Off" CD, though Omarion has been popping in on some shows. Bow Wow also joined Brown on their hit, "Shortie Like Mine."
Well-received teen rapper Soulja Boy Tell'em opened and brought with him the party-happy anthem, "Crank That (Soulja Boy)." He also demonstrated the song's trademark dance, which gets sillier with each viewing. At song's end, Soulja Boy brought out a friend, fellow "ringtone rapper" Jibbs, for a snippet of "Chain Hang Low."
Shop Boyz, whose time in the spotlight seems to have deservedly passed, performed its smash "Party Like a Rock Star."
Pic Source: my photobucket account