Chris Brown, T-Pain, Bow Wow, Tyga
October 20, 2011
Chris Brown seems much older than 22. Of course, he's been famous since he was 16, has a couple double platinum albums, and — with Usher more or less abdicating the position — shoulders the weight of being the only real candidate to fill the void Michael Jackson left. But the assault of Rihanna changed everything, not least of which how he was perceived in the media.
He alluded to all of that at the beginning of his show last night at Staples Center. A series of magazine covers, interviews, appearances and performances from Brown's career clicked by on a screen behind the stage, too rapidly to even register them all. After all, the tour is named after his latest album, F.A.M.E., which stands for “Forgiving All My Enemies.”
It's okay if Brown prefers the past to become a blur. If the crowd last night was any indication, his fans only remember the good times. The other meaning of his acronym? “Fans Are My Everything.”
After a left-field opening during which one of his dancers ran down from the set's third tier with a torch, CB, in cargo pants and a tank top, grinned. “It's my first time in the Staples Center. And we done sold this bitch out.”
Brown gave them what they came for. He sweated through an incredibly aerobic 90-minute set that culminated in his flying through the air to “Beautiful People” as his backup dancers, dressed in L.E.D. Stormtrooper onesies, became a human light show.
When C. Breezy comes out to play, he intends to win. He is in his sexual prime, and over the past year or two he's started telling secrets about his extracurricular proclivities, though he still croons them as earnestly as his gentle puppy-love letters. During a three-song block that began with the subtle-as-a-tsunami “Wet the Bed,” he and his male dancers freaked everything from the floor to the onstage speakers. Eyes glittering, he crawled on top of a female audience member (surprised she didn't keel over from the sheer force of the death stares) and licked her chin.
He's also been devoting more time to hip hop, releasing a free mixtape called Boy in Detention this summer. He lit up when opener Tyga and Kevin McCall came out for “Deuces.” As he pounced about and did the Cat Daddy with Bow Wow — who opened and surprised us by being great as he pogoed around the stage — you felt you were peeking in on two teenagers goofing off. It was the most unselfconscious he would be all night.
CB can do it all: sing, dance, and look good shirtless. While he stripped plenty, and danced more charismatically than his crew, his voice often was overwhelmed by his backing tracks and band. Big disappointment. When it could be heard, it was full-bodied and never faltered.
The sentiment behind his sappier songs felt mechanical, however. He lip-synched some of “Next to You” and “With You”; he sounded Auto-Tuned for “No Air.”
The show itself was a typically big-budget, pop-star affair that even ran credits at its close. It was a bit of a mess. Netting that hung behind the stage gave off a “war shelter in the jungle” vibe. Then there were flashing lights, fog machines, flirtatious dancers, and fire. It felt not unlike a Christmas tree whose every needle is decorated.
But it still managed to elicit high-pitched squeals usually heard at slumber parties. We have the ringing ears to prove it.
Critical bias: Chris Brown can do no wrong.
The crowd: Girls in tiny cocktail dresses, heels that hurt to look at, thigh-high boots, bedazzled jeans, tiaras, and so many sequins. “Lemme hear the dudes,” Brown said at one point, and then laughed. “It's about 15 of y'all in here.”
Random notebook dump: One of them, a hulking, stoic guy in front of me, just started jamming to “With You.” Loved it.
Set list after the break.
Say It With Me
I Can Transform Ya
Wall to Wall
Yo (Excuse Me Miss)
Fall in Love in the Club
Body 2 Body
Wet the Bed
Take You Down
She Ain't You
Holla at Me
Ain't Thinkin' Bout You
Look at Me Now
Next to You