WELCOME to the long unveiling of an R’n’B star’s carved abdominal muscles, at which some music may also have been played.
From gaudy black-sequinned shirt to vest to a Carry-On-worthy game of pectoral peekaboo with one of his hydraulically toned backing dancers, the permanently behatted Ne-Yo (33-year-old Shaffer Smith, Arkansas-born and Las Vegas-raised) is all about inspiring screams of adoration from his overwhelmingly female crowd.
Cannily, his offhand insertion of the word “grown” (ie “grown-up”) during the obligatory declaration that he wants to find a Glasgow girlfriend made some attempt to cordon off the risqué stuff from his many younger fans, but there was no mistaking the intention of most of his songs. Things started off innocuously enough with the bland yearnings of So Sick, for example, or the ballad Alone With You, a song made more pleasant by his tender declaration of it to his daughter. Carry On also offered unexpected consolation to women who are, in his words, neglected and taken advantage of, featuring the odd sound of this rugged teen pin-up hollering a Beyonce-style: “Ladies – let me hear you if you’re sick and tired of it!”
From there, things descended rapidly into kinky kitsch, including the posse of female dancers in sleek red tights looking like a vintage Whitney Houston photoshoot during Sexy Love and the unashamedly retro combination of dry ice and wailing guitar solo that turned Lazy Love into a corny highlight. In truth, the set was relatively unobjectionable, its more lairy tendencies rounded off by these heavy-footed retro romanticisms, and an encore featuring Forever Now and the wincingly-named Let Me Love You (Until You Learn to Love Yourself) created an enjoyable shot of big-bassed commercial club excitement.