Jason Derulo review – full-beam charisma machine comes on strong

Hydro, Glasgow
Effortlessly combining ballet and kung-fu high kicks, the pop preener’s bare-chested show finds some poetry in priapism

With his laser-sculpted facial hair and endearing habit of singing his own name at the top of songs, Jason Derulo once seemed like the US equivalent of Craig David, even if the ripped Floridian’s industriousness made it almost impossible to imagine him chilling on Sundays. Derulo has now been pumping out radio-targeted, R&B-inflected club bangers for almost a decade. The last time the 29-year-old took any serious time off was an enforced year of physical therapy in 2012 after he almost broke his neck during a dance routine rehearsal.

Derulo’s current arena blowout – ahead of his fifth album due later this year – includes an elaborate routine where he and a brace of female dancers have to run on various Generation Game-style conveyor belts just to stay still. It could be read as a metaphor for modern pop stardom, especially as he makes it all look rather effortless. Initially, though, Derulo presents himself in video interstitials and in person as a triumphant returning warrior king, clad in a furry-shouldered gold breastplate dominated by a protruding lion’s head. Flanked by six dancers in similar battle gear, he looks magnificent, like a genuine streetwise Hercules.

‘At his best, he can find the poetic in the priapic’ ... Jason Derulo.
‘At his best, he can find the poetic in the priapic’ ... Jason Derulo. Photograph: Ben Ryan/Sopa/Rex/Shutterstock

That extravagant armour is ditched during the opening AutoTuned fanfares of his debut single Whatcha Say. While Derulo subsequently slips a parade of artfully distressed jackets on and off, he spends much of the 90-minute show bare chested, a creative decision enthusiastically co-signed by the majority of the crowd. He has become one of pop’s great preeners, even if some of his come-ons are a bit strong. The wicked nursery rhyme-styled Wiggle features the ungallant, frequently repeated line “you know what to do with that big fat butt”. It’s tempered by a fluid Derulo dance routine that combines ballerina spins with kung-fu high kicks.

At his best, he can find the poetic in the priapic. The soaring, swelling Trumpets inspires a mass singalong about finding inspiration in nakedness and is surely the steamiest song to ever namecheck Coldplay. For the more traditionally romantic It Girl – in which Derulo assures his new inamorata that she means more to him than a Grammy – he plucks a fan from the front row and treats her to his full-beam charisma, topped with a courtly kiss on the cheek.

There are bumpier moments. During a short preview of new song Make It, an ode to breaking up in order to sexily make up again, Derulo briefly appears to be miming. His DJ encourages the crowd to sing Happy Birthday to the star, despite it being a day late. It is also hard to summon up much enthusiasm for the declaration: “I had the honour and the privilege of writing a song for the Fifa World Cup.” Turns out not even Derulo can make Colors, a Coca-Cola-funded would-be terrace anthem, anything approaching sexy.

Closing such a large-scale show with an unfamiliar song might seem like a risk but Derulo must feel confident that his new David Guetta collaboration Goodbye is rocket fuel. It cheekily bolts a reggaeton undercarriage to 90s bolero blockbuster Time to Say Goodbye, casting Nicki Minaj as a lusty Brightman to Derulo’s boisterous Bocelli. Like the best moments of this gig, it is daft but deliriously enjoyable.

• At Motorpoint Arena, Cardiff, 25 September. Then touring.


Graeme Virtue

The GuardianTramp

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