With a stellar line up of old and new skool R’n’B artists, it’s no surprise that RnB Fridays Live at the RNA Showgrounds, Brisbane was played to a huge sell-out crowd of over 30,000 people. The advertising prior had been quite strong on both social media and on the radio program itself. The organisers even had an auto messenger set up to give attendees live updates on the day for the event, which was clever communication.
Entering through a carpark to gain entry to the event, would have felt hidden if it weren’t for the road closures, detour signs and people everywhere. The event opened its doors at 2:30 pm that afternoon with the first artists, Next jumping into the fray at 4 pm. As you entered through, you passed the Hit 105 four wheel drive parked giving the opportunity for a selfie but also an indication you were headed in the right direction before being checked through the gate by security and grabbing wristbands. Continuing through, I was faced with the neon archway emblazed with RnB Fridays logos and multiple entries for each of the pass types. There was also a merch stall, food trucks and purple lit bars full of libations.
By the time I had gotten there, Trey Songz had started his set at 7:15 pm. There were crowds everywhere all over the grounds of the oval to full seating in all the stands. Trey shouted out to Australia and confessed his love for Australian girls. The set included tracks such as Neighbours Know My Name, I Need a Girl, Slow Motion and party anthem Bottom’s Up. Many in the crowd formed their own little dance crews showing off moves to each other. Women screaming in delight as Trey stripped off his singlet and teasingly wiped his chest and stomach as he sang. His voice also doing favours with the ladies, smooth and soulful. After he completed his set, the intermission was hardly dead silence.
Between artists, the festival’s emcee, Fatboy Scoop would entertain the crowd with competitions, social media reminders and epic singalong countdowns played by DJ Horizon featuring hits like Eminem’s Lose Yourself (8 Mile), 50 Cent’s In Da Club and Missy Elliot’s Get Ur Freak On. The stage itself had full-blown production values and seriously huge screens, which played all sorts of graphics and videos and played the music videos to accompany the singalongs. Once the Top Ten countdown was completed, those sassy ladies Salt’n’Pepa hit the stage, proclaiming it was time to “party old skool!”
Salt’n’Pepa had a fantastic dance crew and their DJ, Spinderella accompanying their set with the original music videos playing along on the massive screens with smoke streams across the stage, doing their wicked rhyming thang, with Shake Your Thang. They thanked the audience for all their support for the past 32 years and asked the audience who were “70s babies? 80s babies? (woo me!) 90s babies? Cute little 2000s babies who were brought here by their mom?” They also saluted the 60s babies for how they roll, before breaking into R U Ready and into the megahit, Let’s Talk About Sex. The audience dancing, rhyming along while girls were sitting on their guys’ shoulders waving hands around.
They then dedicated their next song, Whatta Man to Australian men. Then headed into their finale busting their iconic moves and slipping on their equally iconic bomber jackets for Shoop and Push It, bringing their set to a booming conclusion!
Fatboy Scoop taking back the audience’s attention for the artist’s changeover with DJ Horizon mixing up and dishing out more popular R’n’B tracks, attendees showing off their dance moves to each other on the ground. Meanwhile, on the main stage, visual checks were in the works in preparation for the night’s final headline act, Usher and Lil Jon.
Then it went to blackout. Screens lit up with Usher adorned with cyberpunk inspired graphics and helicopter audio, before making his dramatic entrance on the DJ section of the main stage in silhouette. All was silent for a moment, save for the audience screaming his name. Dance troupe on stage, spotlight on Usher revealing a black cyberpunk inspired outfit with aviator sunnies reminiscent of his hero, Michael Jackson.
Pulling his signature smooth moves, Usher broke into his opening number with lasers flashing from stage across the clear night sky. Lil Jon showed up not long after, making his appearance in a New York basketball singlet rapping along. Bad Girl followed up with a female dancer in the spotlight, spotting a black leotard dancing with Usher. Back To Sleep (Remix) saw Usher strip off his jacket with the ladies screaming for more. The song featured a skit with three female dancers dancing with him throughout the song and at the end, leaving him “upset” that they’re not the only ones dancing with him. Lil Jon joking afterward with Usher saying, “You got to pick one” with Usher replying, “True. But I want them all!” Audience erupting in a mix of laughter and screams. Performing the next track, Usher once again strips his singlet to reveal… another singlet. Now there’s a troll for the thirsty ladies!
Hands were bouncing for Confessions and Usher left the stage for a quick break while Lil Jon revved up the crowd with his aggressive mad dash of rap melody including Alive, Get Low and Gasolina (Remix). Usher returning on stage with a costume change of white with an umbrella and a bowler hat complete with feather. Continuing on with the theatrics, Usher approached a clear white lit briefcase on a table, building suspense. Unfortunately not quite working in his favour, as what he expected to be in the briefcase clearly not. Usher laughing while a stagehand rushes to the scene to pop in the surprise, saying to the audience to, “reset. Forget that happened!” Too funny to not forget, sorry and a true good testament to you as a performer- you took this so well in your stride where others might not have.
As for the surprise reveal- the classic U logo on the silver chain was in the briefcase! Usher slipping on the bling with Lil Jon busting into In Da Club. Flamethrowers lighting up the front of the stage as Usher continued delivering signature hits such as Oh My Gosh and Caught Up with Lil Jon’s party anthem Shots delivering the final blows to a killer set!
Review Contributed by Sarah Minazzo