As the lights dimmed at the Tower Theater a little after 10 P.M. on New Year's Day, a crowd of mostly female fans immediately rose to its feet and began yelling uncontrollably, anticipating the arrival of R&B upstart Trey Songz. The curtain eventually lifted to reveal Songz (real name: Tremaine Neverson) in front of a microphone and a five-piece band, and audience members began jumping around, hugging each other and standing on top of seats in order to snap countless photographs.
For those who questioned Songz's ability to command the attention of Upper Darby, Pa.'s 3,500-capacity Tower Theater, the deafening volume that the audience's screams reached before Songz had even let a single note loose was a telling sign of what would follow. Anyone who doubts this 25-year-old's potential of becoming a star should get ready -- or get "Ready," Songz's third album that houses most of the R&B-pop jams he tore through on Friday night.
Released last year, "Ready" revealed Songz as a talented artist starting to cross over into mainstream consciousness. His live show on this night displayed his savvy skill of selling himself to women. With a stunning voice that frequently strives to hit impossibly high notes, Songz let his set list alternate between soulful ballads like "Black Roses" and more playful pop fare like "LOL :-)". Each song contained sexy winks directed towards his fans, from his pleas for a "beautiful, intelligent, independent" girlfriend during "Successful" to some suggestive hip-thrusting during "Neighbors Know My Name."
When Songz took off his black button-down while performing his current single, "Say Aah," to close the set, the gesture garnered a bigger reaction than the song itself. Songz understood just what his audience wanted from the show, and he fed off of the energy from the tightly packed theater.
Songz's stage persona is now well-crafted, just as his latest material has evolved into an impressive rethinking of mainstream R&B's conventions. "Yo Side of the Bed" was an affecting lament of love lost, while "I Invented Sex" offered a fun new take on the R. Kelly model of midtempo jams.
Unlike Meek Mill and Freeway, two Philadelphia-based rappers who stopped by the show and performed a few great cuts as opening acts, Songz performed with a full band instead of just a turntable, which made each number more lush and fulfilling. As confetti rained over the audience during the final song, the happiness radiating from the crowd was undeniable, and Songz left the stage with a huge grin. "Say Aah" recently reached the Top 40 of Billboard's Hot 100, and Songz rang in the new year by proving he has what it takes to break out further in 2010.