O2 Arena…Value for Money Venue?

Usher is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, male global superstar of his genre. Why was it then, amid 20,000 screaming fans in the O2 Arena last week, that I couldn’t help feeling like the stage show looked small and a bit simple – as if someone was trying to save money?

Don’t misunderstand me; it was a spectacular setup. The O2 certainly looks like it can accommodate the most gigantic events, but when support act Tinchy Stryder strolled out onto a bare stage with no one for company but a lonely DJ and sang karaoke to his own songs, I started to feel like the kids standing behind me screaming his name were being badly ripped off.

When he left, having managed to slow my pulse to a virtual standstill, it was a good half an hour before anything on the stage happened again. This was beginning to seem like a bad start with bad planning and bad continuity. Being a musician myself I quite enjoyed the sound check, but it really did lend itself to the feeling of wasted time and awful planning that was increasingly difficult for me to ignore, compounded when a random DJ decided not to introduce himself before playing some unintelligible mixes.

Beer, I thought to myself. ‘Small plastic bottle of Becks? That’ll be £5, please.’ What? Ah, so that’s why nothing happens on the stage.

Usher time. This man is a spectacular performer and his troupe of dancers equally as spectacular. The talent on the stage was mesmerising. Orgiastic strutting, sliding, running, moonwalking, flipping, gyrating and ripping clothes off hypnotised the crowd so deeply that most people could barely take their eyes off their camera phones. Wait. Why is nobody watching the stage?

The best bits for me were the theatrical tracks such as U Remind Me, for these were the ones when Usher’s voice was not mixed into a distorting backing track and he was actually singing. There were moments when he didn’t sing at all but his voice emanated from the speakers, and periods of nothingness while music videos played on large screens.

In the theatre of it all, stories were told and the songs made a great deal of sense while being professionally performed. There was a Michael Jackson tribute which was brilliant, as Usher is the performer that most resembles the late King of Pop.

Possibly one of the most incredible things I saw, and certainly the saddest, and a great example of the weird way people enjoy entertainment at the O2, was a man being reprimanded and ejected for dancing in an aisle…yes. This kind of said it all for me. Usher was phenomenal; I can’t deny that, but everything outside of the performing human elements during this particular concert left me feeling like too many money-grabbing nut-jobs and lazy, unimaginative planning monkeys had never really understood what a customer like me really feels they deserve when a concert of this magnitude is staged.

Nobody should visit the O2 and feel like they didn’t get value for money. Just look at the place.

Usher’s gig formed part of American Express’ Preferred Seating programme, which provides card members with exclusive access to a host of music and cultural events throughout the year. For more information visit: amex.co.uk/access

The O2
Peninsula Square
SE10 0DX

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