Jason Derulo made it clear early in his debut at RodeoHouston: If you didn’t come to dance, you were in the wrong place. “We came all the way to Houston to party, and I heard this was the hottest party in Houston, tonight,” he shouted out to an excited crowd of 59,236 on Black Heritage Day at NRG Stadium Friday night.
The sexy 26-year-old singer kicked off the show with “Trumpets”, “Wiggle” and “Get Ugly” before turning the stage over to his dancers. Fans were on their feet, but it seemed the dancing didn’t really get started until he roared back with “Whatcha Say,” his 2009 debut single.
And for the fans who’ve followed Derulo’s career, he had another treat. “Single ladies that love Jason Derulo make some noise. If you’re not single, I bet by the end of this song, you’ll be riding solo," he said.
What can I say? The man knows how to work a segue between songs. But it was enough to get a laugh and keep people moving well after his break-up anthem “Ridin’ Solo” was over.
Derulo wasn’t alone for long, though. He hopped off the rotating stage to touch fans’ hands and get one question answered.“All these beautiful ladies over here, and I was wondering if my ‘It Girl’ was in Houston, tonight," he said.
For the purposes of this segment, she was. The strobe lights, glass-breaking sound effects and dance-offs mid-song all faded into the darkness as the spotlight shined on the fan he pulled from the crowd.
However, it left me thinking, how could I do that? I want to be the “It Girl.” Are these girls vetted? But I digress.
The chosen fan did exactly right: She milked the moment, sneaking in kisses (on the cheek). At one point, she and Derulo were so close, I began to wonder if I should run out to the floor and offer breath mints. My favorite part of the serenade was how supportive the crowd was, cheering her on the entire time.
On that note, Derulo moved into an acoustic version of “Don’t Wanna Go Home,” but it was brief.
He brought back the dance party and upped the sex appeal in a way that many fans knew had to be coming. He ripped off his shirt. I don’t think you could say his chest was sweating. It was more of a glisten. But the fans didn’t seem to mind as he transitioned into “Talk Dirty.”
Derulo set up his finale in a way I thought was meaningful and believable, despite him being half-naked. “This next song is a celebration, and I want today to be a celebration of life. Let’s celebrate our health. Let’s celebrate that we can get up and do what we want to do," he said.
That part made me think. I’d wondered if that celebration of life was a nod to the near-death experience he had four years ago, when a neck-injury sustained from dancing could have left him paralyzed.
Derulo spoke with humility about his journey and success from the moment the show started until the final thank you, when he introduced his hit single,“Want To Want Me.” (He and Luke Bryan did an excellent karaoke version of that song. Maybe Derulo should make a cameo appearance at Bryan’s RodeoHouston concert on March 10. Can we make this happen?)
Derulo ended the show shirtless on horseback and rode off into the sunset – or rather, backstage. Gasps could be heard (or maybe that was just me?) when the horse sped off, catching Derulo off guard. But he laughed it off.
Overall, I found Derulo to be a talented, high-energy performer who mixed the hits fans love (“In My Head,” “The Other Side,” “Cheyenne”) with the vocal range he reminded everyone he has (“Marry Me”). Add in the snippet of “Broke” – a collaboration with Keith Urban and Stevie Wonder – and Derulo may have just danced, glistened, and ridden his way to another Rodeo.