Man, does Chris Brown know how to throw gasoline on a fire, or what?
On Tuesday night at uptown’s Spectrum Center – where Breezy made his fourth stop on the “Party Tour” he launched in Baltimore last week – he emerged from his final costume change wearing the smartest thing he could possibly wear in Charlotte 24 hours after North Carolina won the NCAA basketball title: a blue T-shirt touting the Tar Heels as national champions.
Then, right before the closer in an energetic 20-song set packed with his coolest dance moves, the man who is as famous for his R&B as he is infamous for his criminal record peeled off the tee to reveal his tatted torso and well-maintained six-pack abs, then unceremoniously flipped the UNC shirt behind his back into a crowded Section 105.
Now, Brown had been throwing articles of clothing at fans all night, starting with a cap he tossed while heading into “(Yo) Excuse Me Miss” that didn’t make it over the security barricade. Someone scored a black windbreaker. Someone else got a hoodie.
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The Tar Heels shirt, though – that was the holy grail. He had to have known that it would cause trouble. Right? I mean, as it sailed through the air, it struck me immediately: Yep, there’s going to be a fight over this.
Indeed there was, as the crowd literally went wild. A group of women pulled at the garment as if it were a Tickle Me Elmo on Black Friday circa 2006 and … Would … Not … Let … Go.
Brown kept right on with “Party” – “Ooh, she hit the splits, she know how to party / When I’m with my clique, we know how to party” – and they pulled. Climactic pyrotechnics were detonated – and they pulled. Brown and his backup dancers took their final bow with their backs to Section 105 – and they pulled. Brown left the stage, the lights came up, people started filing out – and they pulled.
A man jokingly suggested sorting things out with a game of rock, paper, scissors, but no one laughed. Another man, who looked like he’d exceeded his recommended daily allowance of Jack and Cokes, was knocked to the ground as the situation got even more heated. One woman pointed a threatening finger in another woman’s face, and I swore she was going to throw a punch. The other woman eventually threw up a middle finger and kept it up, while the first woman was restrained by a friend.
But mostly, they pulled.
Up until that point, the night had been going pretty smoothly, all things considered.
I think he hides his voice behind too many backing vocals and too much bass, but he’s not sleepwalking through these shows; he quickly lived up to his reputation as one of the top dancers in the game – with a mesmerizing arsenal of moves that took full advantage of the in-the-round stage setup – and he was pouring sweat by the time he slowed it down for his 2010 ballad “Deuces” (song No. 5 in his set). He’s legit, and he’s legit good.
I think he relies a little too much on female backup dancers, and has them dress (and gyrate) too much like strippers. But when they’re doing legitimately challenging acrobatic moves high above the ground – using silks and aerial hoops – you can appreciate their craft despite the thongs and negligees. He employs some very good male backup dancers, too; but they (unless it happened really quickly and I missed it) never took their shirts off or stripped down to brief underwear.
Finally, while I think it’s frustrating that 50 Cent dropped out last-minute as the show’s most notable support act, it’s hard to blame Brown for the rapper’s unexpected curveball, and the guys who did show up to open (rappers Casanova, Kap G, O.T. Genasis and Fabolous) gave knockout performances.
Look, Chris Brown is a talent. No question. Charismatic, great stage presence, helluva dancer. It’s just, to some extent, it seems like he can’t help himself.
For instance, he can’t resist the opportunity for a cheap laugh – like wedging a video skit between “Time for Love” and “Show Me” that featured comedian Mike Epps as a cop who is having a sex act performed on him when Brown speeds by in a Lamborghini. “He’s supposed to be at community service!,” exclaimed a dumbfounded Epps.
Brown can’t look at his set list, consider his history of violence against women, and rationally come to the conclusion that, “Hey, maybe I shouldn’t objectify my female backup dancers quite so much.”
He also, apparently, can’t resist inciting chaos by tossing a sweaty North Carolina shirt into a hungry crowd still half-delirious over the national championship the school won one night prior.
As a result, a bunch of fans got a little too worked up over the obsession with “winning,” and couldn’t let it go – literally.
Anyway: After six or seven straight minutes of pulling that turned into as much of a spectacle as Brown’s finale, a security guard finally took control of the situation, ripped the UNC shirt from the fans’ clutches, and chucked it angrily up onto the empty stage.
A few moments later, a stagehand retrieved it and disappeared behind a curtain.
And my hope is that, at this moment, all those people fighting over Chris Brown’s throwaway shirt suddenly felt as stupid as they looked.