DUBAI // Usher took to the stage of Dubai's Media City Auditorium last night, delighting the 12,000-strong capacity crowd but disappointing some of his fans by keeping his shirt on.
The US star, who is famed for flashing his six-pack abs on stage but had earlier pledged to keep his shirt on, teased the audience by whipping off his jacket ... only to reveal another sleeveless jacket he had been wearing beneath it.
The 32-year-old, who is in the UAE as part of his OMG World Tour Part Two, opened his concert with the track Hey Daddy as the crowd sang along and danced.
Flanked by eight dancers, the singer performed for more than 90 minutes.
"I'm shaking with excitement," said Mariam al Hamrani, 24, who is from Jeddah. "I have been a fan for more than 10 years and this is the first time that I have ever seen him live. It's a dream come true."
Chris Rons, 17, who is from the US city of Detroit, is visiting the Emirates with his parents, who surprised him with tickets for the concert.
"I have loved Usher all my life. This is the best gift ever," he said.
The concert sold out days in advance, and outside the auditorium hundreds of people gathered trying to find last-minute tickets.
Inside the venue, Tara Atalla and Zoya Mushahawr, both 11-year-olds from Jordan, waved a yellow banner they had made at home.
Sharon Corbin, 38, who is from Atlanta, said: "For me, this feels like history in the making. Here I am at a sold-out Usher concert. His first in Dubai. To be here is amazing."
"I enjoyed the mix of old and new songs," said Stephanie English, 40, who owns a hair salon in Dubai. "I am really enjoying the show, but it is such a shame that he didn't take his shirt off."
Famous for his displays of light, sound and flesh, Usher had said yesterday that out of respect for the local culture he would not be taking his shirt offe.
"I was very mindful of the standards of the region, and we have made some adjustments to the female wardrobe," he said. "Also, I won't be taking my shirt off. I hope the fans will forgive me."
The superstar said he wants to perform again in the UAE. "Everybody is chilled here," he said. "They are kind and accommodating," he said at a press conference before the concert.
Usher, whose real name is Usher Raymond IV, performed a mix of old songs and tracks from his latest album, Raymond v. Raymond.
His latest album is his third consecutive release to debut at number one on the US charts. The single OMG, which he recorded with will.i.am from the Black Eyed Peas, became his ninth number one hit in the US.
Usher has also been credited for the rapid rise of the teen sensation Justin Bieber.
Of Bieber, he said: "He has handled his success very well and his dedication as an artist is impeccable."
Bieber never fails to credit Usher and cite him as a source of inspiration, which Usher says he finds humbling.
"That other artists aspire to you is a testament that you as an artist have done something that worked," he said.
As for Usher, he seeks inspiration in the work of the late soul legend James Brown, and listens to his music before every show.
Fatherhood, he added, made him the man he is today. "My children are my greatest contribution to life and they are the reason for doing what I am doing."
He joked with the media about his three-year-old son, who he said could be his next A&R man. The child selected the song More from his new album, and to the artist's surprise it was one of the biggest hits on the record.
"I can't believe he has good ears like that," he said. "But his name is Usher."