Chris Brown With Trey Songz and Tyga American Airlines Center, Dallas Wednesday, March 11, 2015
"Well, that was awkward." Those were the words running through a lot of minds at Chris Brown's "Between the Sheets" show at American Airlines Center last night.
Brown's stop in Dallas -- with Tyga and Trey Songz in tow -- was the first time the controversial R&B singer has played a show in North Texas in four years, and as hard as the trio tried, the show was just not very good. As in, it was pretty awkward, and bordering on straight up bad.
Things started off promisingly enough. Tyga opened the show, and while he certainly wasn't the draw for those massive ticket sales, perhaps he should have been. From the moment Tyga hit the stage, he was a bouncy, roughneck ball of nonstop energy, jumping into the audience and up on seats, and every move he made ripped the goddamn roof off the stage.
Tyga's lyrics are delivered at this rapid, spitfire pace that only a rapper with real talent can pull off while bouncing like Tigger across the auditorium. The set, while limited to a paltry 30 minutes, was incredibly impressive, even if you're not into Tyga's Rack City style.
But really, how could you not be? "Rack City" is pretty much one of the most catchy throw-them-dollas tunes to make its way onto mainstream radio in the last few years. And after last night, the dude still deserves all the credit (and racks) for being mesmerizing on stage. Because when he took a bow, things went way downhill. Fast.
Enter Trey Songz.
One half of the "Between the Sheets" draw -- the concert was set up like a really lame version of Jay Z and Kanye West's Watch the Throne tour, with solo and dual sets rotating through the night -- Mr. Heart Attack was pretty disappointing, despite obvious effort.
From the moment Songz hit the stage, he made a point to drench literally everything he did in sappy, eager sex schtick. Normally that would be fine, if not expected, from a guy like him. He's made his name by specializing in boot-knockin' ballads -- the man claims to have invented sex, after all -- but too much of a good thing, even sex, gets old after a while.
From Songz's claims of "I Invented Sex" (a song that is, yes, about how the dude invented the dirty deed) to his writhing, simulated sex moves during "Cake" (his ode to eating "cake" hint hint, nudge nudge,), the singer seems to be unable to go any deeper (pun intended) than just sex. Or tired, cliched euphemisms for sex.
When Trey Songz breathes onstage, it's layered in sex. When he blinks, sex. When he spits, bends, croons, stares, or anything else he could possibly do, it's sex.
Sex, sex, sex. See? It gets old.
It's a shame that Songz can't pull back from the come ons, because they really do overshadow his vocals, which are surprisingly good, for the most part. The overwrought schtick renders his actually good songs, like the angsty, frustrated "Yes, No, Maybe" disingenuous and vapid.
Sometimes sex can't save a concert relationship, apparently. Even hours worth.
But Trey Songz wasn't the only flop at last night's Between the Sheets stop. Notorious bad boy Chris Brown's set was also pretty rough last night, too. Once Breezy took the stage after Songz's foreplay of a set, something felt really off. Like, way off.
Dressed in grey skinny jeans and two nose rings, Brown instantly commanded attention on stage in a way that Songz never could. Good, right? Not necessarily. While he's certainly built to be a performer -- Brown's every movement seems calculated and expert -- nothing he does translates as genuine. Or anything less than mechanical, really.
It's hard to find just where that disconnect starts with Brown's performance -- at least initially. On the surface, Brown should be a pretty respected performer, given his abilities. And yes, he has talent, even if you abhor him. Brown is naturally a decent vocalist -- not that you'd know it by his penchant for auto tune, mind you -- and the dude knows how to command attention on the stage.
But after a couple of songs -- good ones, even, like "She Ain't You" -- the source of that disconnect becomes clear. Apparently if there were ever a live show that screamed "too soon," it's a Chris Brown show.
Yes, even after six years.
Brown did his best to divert attention from career-damaging pitfalls of the domestic abuse nightmare (let's not forget that the rescheduling of this show was a legacy of that very nightmare, as per judge's orders), but nothing could really distract from the obvious distrust of this performer.
He ran through the gambit of hits -- even that old "Run It" song was on there -- but no matter how many impressive dance moves he throws on top of the set list, that palatable air of dislike just kind of hangs around him. Yes, even at his own concert.
And it's not just me that felt it. At one point during Brown's set, the woman behind me turned to her date, who was obviously impressed with Brown's dance skills, and said, "But how are you going to beat up Rihanna, though? It's Rihanna!"
I had to keep myself from nodding in agreement.
It's an odd thing to have an artist's criminal behavior overshadow their concert, especially when one goes to that show willingly -- and, presumably, the woman behind me was there willingly -- but Brown's past does just that.
What makes the looming judgment odd is not that Brown's got a criminal past -- plenty of musicians have had run-ins while famous -- it's that no amount of bass, or booties, or writhing on stage can draw attention away from the still-looming horror of how he beat up a woman, even for a couple of hours. Even now. Even for his fans.
But perhaps his actions six years ago, which were reprehensible and abhorrent, would be slightly more forgivable had he shown any remorse. Instead, he's spent the six years skirting any punishment or any responsibility for his actions. That type of non-crisis control has simply added to the aftershocks.
Brown and Songz tried their hardest to draw the attention away from the dark clouds that sit over Breezy, but it just didn't work. After Brown's solo set, the two played a long, drawn-out, innuendo-laden dual set, and it just seemed to make things worse.
Ultimately, Brown can sing all he wants about these hoes not being loyal -- which is a pretty catchy song worthy of a playlist or two -- but until he manages to either dig up some remorse, or find a way to con the public into forgiving him, there will always be a disconnect.
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He can even do that singing onstage with Trey Songz, who just wants to stick his tongue on you -- his lyrics, not mine -- and people will still be murmuring in the audience about what happened six years ago.
Maybe it's time to find some real remorse for your behavior, Mr. Brown. It might be the only way people are going to leave a show you play about nonstop sex feeling satisfied. That, or just let Tyga play the whole damn four hours instead. He's badass enough to pull it off.
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