Thursday 14 December 2017

R&B Ne-yo The O2, Dublin

Ne-Yo has a set of flawless, gleaming American teeth. Even the folk in row Z can appreciate his dentally perfect smile as the big screens pick up his chatter about how sweet it is that people buy his music.

The man born Shaffer Chimere Smith reserves the biggest beam of all for when he suggests that anyone who doesn't own his latest masterwork can rectify the situation at the merchandise stalls after his concert. Ne-Yo is, after all, as much a consummate businessman as he is an R&B pin-up.

He is also among the cheesiest performers you will see this side of Daniel O'Donnell. Toes struggle to uncurl after witnessing his mawkish songs above love and lust. There's a stampede for the bars when he delivers a lullaby aimed at his young daughter; such tender moments should be confined to the privacy of one's home and not foisted upon the paying public.

But Ne-Yo doesn't seem to care as he pouts and preens at the audience, a black trilby hat perched rakishly over his eyes.

The 33-year-old from Arkansas specialises in a particularly schmaltzy brand of R&B and, besides his own work, he's a songwriter for hire for such figures as Beyoncé and Leona Lewis.

Yet, it is hard to escape the feeling that all the songs sound roughly the same and simply bleed into each other when performed in quick succession. One of his best known compositions, 'So Sick', offers little more than bland R&B-by-numbers, while the sentiments of 'One in A Million' would have most sane people reaching for the sick bucket.

Yet there's plenty of sleaze amid the cheese. His female dancers dress as though they have been plucked straight from a tacky strip club and their full-on gyrations leave very little to the imagination.

'Sexy Love' finds Ne-Yo indulging in vocal pyrotechnics while his dancers bump and grind around him. And the dance routine for 'Crazy Love' requires his women to kneel in front of him and to claw his chest and pelvis.

And, just in case anyone was failing to grasp the explicit nature of the performance, the video backdrop shows an amorous encounter between a pair of models that's not far off soft pornography.

Just as the performance is about to descend into hideous self-parody, Ne-Yo manages to up his game. Crowd favourite 'Closer' is well executed with the anonymous band finally allowed some muscularity, while 'Give Me Everything' boasts a certain charm and is undeniably rousing.

For the most part, though, this is about as wretched a concert as you could possibly see. Not that our man appears to notice as he flashes his teeth and drinks in the applause at the end.

John Meagher

Irish Independent

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