The 11 day Summerfest music festival concluded on Sunday, July 6, the way it began, with thunderstorms. Fortunately, the forecast showers held off until the late sets and it didn't keep Usher fans from enjoying his only scheduled 2014 live appearance at the Marcus Amphitheater.
Cheap Trick, The Orwells, Jake Bugg, Nitty Gritty Dirty Band, Ismael Miranda, Cole Swindell and Melissa Etheridge rounded out the general admission ground's stages. Though fans were doused with a heavy downpour and a few headed for the exits, many held firm when it settled to a light drizzle to finish out the festival.
The announcement of Usher at Summerfest was a big of a shock, considering that he's working on the follow-up to his 2012 chart-topping release, "Looking 4 Myself," and not presently touring. Fans fears of a rusty performance were quickly assuaged within seconds to his opening number, "OMG," as the fleet-footed performer slithered smoothly across the stage. His moves were smooth as silk, backed by a number of dancers and musicians, while his vocals were on point.
Usher showered the crowd with his #1 singles, including "You Make Me Wanna," "Nice & Slow," "U Remind Me" and the essential "Yeah." He didn't tease with any new music, but he also didn't need to given his immense collection of hits.
The rain held off just long enough for Cheap Trick to take the stage at 9:45 p.m. A rock and roll institution and recurring Summerfest headliner, Cheap Trick always entertain. "Dream Police," "Surrender" and "I Want You To Want Me" all inspired the crowd to sing-along, while guitarist Rick Nielsen relentlessly tossed guitar picks at fans.
The 2014 season was particularly strong, featuring key performances by Lady Gaga, Bruno Mars, Luke Bryan, Brad Paisley and Zac Brown Band. While the Marcus Amphitheater pulled in large crowds each night for these, and other, marquee performances, the BMO Harris Pavilion was hit-or-miss while seemingly catering to a more mature crowd. Outside of Kip Moore and New Order, the audience size could be considered disappointing. That said, the overall Summerfest lineup had plenty of variety and could typically satisfy most musical palettes on any given night. We're already looking forward to the 2015 campaign.