While comeback shows are typically created for aged artists or fallen stars who are attempting to re-energize their careers, 20-year-old Chris Brown should never expect a show of his to be branded by the media as such again.
In his first high-profile concert since being charged with five years probation and six months of community service for the altercation with former girlfriend Rihanna, Brown joined a host of R&B and hip-hop talent at the IZOD Center in New Jersey for Power 105.1's Powerhouse 2009 concert.
Amid a poorly-ordered line-up and a soundsystem drowning out too many of the strong vocals -- including on Brown's final number, which he performed twice as a result -- the event was worth the hype; Brown's fearless stage presence and strong vocals were superb, with the exception of some occassional lip-synching.
A drumset and DJ booth -- which housed the station's own Ed Lover -- were all that was on stage, with a small lit sign with the singer's initials. Red lights circulated and the screaming began with first single "I Can Transform Ya" off Brown's upcoming release "Graffiti," due December 15 on Jive Records. Six male dancers dressed in black joined Brown, who was sporting a sequined red and black jacket that looked like it was borrowed from Michael Jackson's "This Is It" tour. Clearly lip-synching while dancing, Brown looked focused during the opening set, a song that features Lil Wayne and Swizz Beatz, the latter of which was on stage.
Brown then ripped off his jacket to more screams, revealing a red sash over a black t-shirt. The dancing continued with intensive push-up moves, flips and tight choreography. "Ladies, ya'll ready to party tonight?" he asked before pausing for cheers. "Then let's do it."
A New York skyline came on screen during "Wall To Wall," with smoke shooting up from the floor. The lively song ended and Brown's tongue hung out of the side of his mouth as he gave a slight smirk at the end.
Dripping in sweat, "Gimme That" finished with Brown mouthing the lyrics, while he lost his t-shirt and later his tank top for "Take You Down." His facedown pelvic thrusts alongside two dancers signaled the end of his teen act days.
The softer "With You" came next, as Brown stood on stage with his mic stand and left arm up. He reached his hand out to fans during the song and there was a subtle glimpse of inner struggle, as the performer purposely dropped the mic stand, fell to the ground, then got up and spun around. A couple of bars of "With You" a capella ended the song, while the jumbotrons displayed close-ups of his star tattoos, those said to match Rihanna's.
One of Brown's best vocal efforts of the evening was during the gripping "No Air," during which smoke shot up from several spots in the ground. Brown gave a sincere glimpse of his superstar teeth, as he smiled at the sea of fanatics before thanking them. "I wanted to thank everyone for coming out tonight and despite the past, I've changed for everyone and I'm gonna be a better man," he reassured them, referencing the February domestic violence issue. "How long we gonna do this?" he then asked, and after a split-second pause, the audience replied in unison, "Forever."
For the final song, although he performed with a malfunctioning mic for the first half, he managed to pull it together, even busting out a split and imitating Michael Jackson's "Rock With You" shuffle as the crowd excitedly shouted. "Powerhouse, I love ya'll, good night, thank you all for coming out," he concluded.
Trey Songz received the most praise of the openers and sang a pleasant vocal on "I Need A Girl." Keri Hilson delivered her hit single "Turnin' Me On" with conviction and swagger and "Knock You Down" was another standout. Fabolous' "Throw It In The Bag" was an audience favorite and Mario and Day 26 also performed. The-Dream, songwriter of Rihanna's "Umbrella" and writer and producer of Beyoncé's "Single Ladies" performed a rather lackluster set, rarely connecting with the audience.
As for Brown, while first hit "Run It!" and the new, touchy ballad "Crawl" were missing from the set, the show proved he never missed a beat. And though he might have lost some fans along the way, he showed thousands of them that night why he's one of the top young entertainers in the world.