New Yorkers lined up in record numbers Thursday afternoon for their chance to see Usher, Keith Urban and Natasha Bedingfield perform for the NFL Kickoff concert in Columbus Circle, honoring last season's Superbowl champions, the New York Giants. Possibly the hottest day of the year, the high reaching over 90 degrees, concert staff kept the audience nearest to the stage hydrated, throwing water bottles into the crowd and splashing them with water. However, the nearly six hours spent standing while awaiting the show as the scorching sun beat down on concert attendants did take a toll on some, as two girls passed out in the area where I was standing.
Those that were lucky enough to get close to the stage received an engaging performance by all three performers, possibly most surprising to the crowd was country rocker Keith Urban. From my spot, most concertgoers were there to see Usher, but Urban and his band, made up of a keyboardist, bass, electric and acoustic guitarists, drummer and banjo players certainly awed and impressed.
"I want to give a huge thank you to everybody that got here real early. I wish we could play for hours," Urban said. "I've walked in this circle plenty of times and now we're just jammin' and having some fun." His high-energy, nearly 40-minute set gave New Yorkers a new appreciation for country music. From jumping onto a stage jutting out from the main stage while playing solid guitar riffs on "Where the Blacktop Ends" to running into the crowd, high-fiving fans while stopping at times to sing and play guitar during "You Look Good in My Shirt," I think most in attendance walked away as Keith Urban fans.
Usher, of course did not disappoint. His grand entrance — preceded by cheerleaders being flipped in the air before a smoke-filled stage — proved that he still has the stage presence, dance moves and smooth singing style that he is known for. Usher introduced the crowd to a few of his new hits, such as catchy opening song, "What's Your Name" off of latest album, Here I Stand, as well as played many of his older classics.
"Throughout the years you've been so supportive so I thought I'd start off with some songs you know," Usher told the crowd. "So if you know the words, sing along New York," he said before performing a medley of "Confessions Part II," "Burn" and "U Got It Bad." During his wardrobe changes a DJ kept the audience alive before Usher came back out to end the show with "Lovers and Friends," high-energy song "Yeah!" and current radio hit, "Love in This Club."
Natasha Bedingfield opened the show and played many of her radio hits and tracks off her latest album, Pocketful of Sunshine. Audience favorites seemed to be slower number, "Angel" as well as the Hills' theme song, "Unwritten." Prefacing "Unwritten" she told the audience that she's been waiting to sing the song in New York. "You guys inspire me by your strength. When there is tragedy you stay strong and come together and move on."
The rest of the afternoon was filled with appearances by NBC television stars such as Zack Levi from "Chuck" and Alison Sweeney as well as Rich Eisen and Deion Sanders introducing each performer. Mayor Bloomberg introduced the concert while video recaps of the 2007 New York Giants season leading up to their big Superbowl victory were shown, gearing up football fans for the 2008 season.