Chris Brown turns up for Mzansi, despite personal drama

Chris Brown performs during his concert on Thursday at the Dome in Johannesburg. (Frennie Shivambu, Gallo)

Chris Brown performs during his concert on Thursday at the Dome in Johannesburg. (Frennie Shivambu, Gallo)

It’s a far cry from community service to the dazzling lights of the stage and tens of thousands of adoring fans. But the life of Chris Brown is anything but ordinary – or predictable. 

Weeks after completing 1 000 extra hours of court ordered community service the 25-year-old superstar jetted into South Africa for a highly-anticipated return performance, following his 2013 venture. And the reaction was, well, luke warm. 

The stress of being in the spotlight, recording a new album and dealing with a personal life that just won’t normalise clearly showed in Brown’s Johannesburg performance at the Dome on Thursday. 

Brown’s natural ability embedded in his vocals and dancing feet can never be denied but when compared to his previous concert the spark was absent.
He was not as committed to the dance this time around, signaled by the dearth of choreographed dance sequences that the 20 000-strong crowd came to see. Maybe he was just tired, but he relied too much on the dazzling backdrop to sustain the energy for two hours. Given the exorbitant price of tickets, fans deserved better. 

Credit to the promoters Glen Netshipise (Glen21 Entertainment), Sobukwe Jali (Jalibird) and Thato Segaole (Vertex Events) for putting on a professional event for an artist who is in his prime. Not that Brown’s entire performance was a flop. 

When he stripped away the flashing lights and put away his dancers, Brown reminded us all why he is the superstar that he is. His vocals on X, the title track of his latest album, were superb. In that moment Brown proved why he has the staying power to set him apart from his peers. He is an all round performer, and perhaps the cross over artist we’ve missed since Michael Jackson’s untimely departure. 

Brown is able to journey through R&B, hip-hop, dance, dub step and EDM with ease - his vocals perfectly matched for every genre. He is the modern day artist who can never be confined to a single sound. 

Breezy offered up some of his most popular songs like Turn up the Music, Ayo, Wall to Wall and Loyal. Singing over back up tracks was not an issue for most fans but it was disconcerting for the purists who preferred he didn’t.  

Insiders said Brown rehearsed for three hours straight, dancing and singing, before the show after arriving in the country the night before. It’s obvious the man is trying to make up for lost time after his run in with the law. Still, he is described as “one of the realest niggas in the game” by Brown’s opening act, the ever-impressive August Alsina. The 22-year-old R&B singer’s rendition of Benediction was the highlight of the night from a purely vocal point of view. 

Brown has a lot going on in his life and while it is understandable that fans will take away their own assessment of his efforts in South Africa, it is encouraging to know that Breezy is showing no sign of slowing down in the face of personal strife. One look at the pop charts and it’s clear that he is the hardest working musician in the industry right now. He deserves the plaudits he gets. 

Love him or hate him (the silence of women’s rights organisations has been noted), Brown is not going away anytime soon.

Adrian Ephraim

Adrian Ephraim

Adrian Ephraim is the Mail & Guardian Online news editor. He is a former sports writer and newspaper executive who has been converted to the ways of the hashtag and hyperlink. He is a news addict who longs for the day when it can be delivered intravenously. Political satire is what he lives for - look out for his memes. The three loves of Adrian's life include his masterchef wife, his son who is a Michael Jackson impersonator and Arsenal. Read more from Adrian Ephraim

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