You may have missed it amid the flurry of rollerskating, confetti and parade of special guests, but during Usher‘s electric halftime set at Sunday’s (Feb. 11) 2024 Super Bowl the “Yeah!” singer slipped in a touching, subtle tribute to one of his late longtime band members.
While rocking Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas with a run of greatest hits, the stage for Usher’s show featured a live band with a double drum kit setup. Eagle eyed viewers, however, may have noticed that one of the kits — a golden one — was left empty in a tribute to Ush’s longtime drummer, Aaron Spears, who died in Oct. 2023 at age 47.
Rolling Stone said it confirmed that the empty kit was an homage to Spears, the beloved drummer who worked with Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, Britney Spears and Miley Cyrus and who was nominated for a Grammy for his production on Usher’s massive 2004 Confessions album.
At the time of his death, Spears’ wife, Jessica, wrote in an Instagram post, “Aaron was not only an incredibly accomplished drummer, admired by many for his unparalleled talent and passion for music, but he was also a devoted father to our precious son, August. His love, guidance, and warmth were the pillars of our family, and his absence leaves a void that words cannot describe. We were blessed to have him in our lives, and his legacy will live on through the beautiful rhythms he created and the love he shared with us. We appreciate all the thoughts and prayers during this difficult time. Please remember Aaron for the incredible person he was and the amazing music he brought into our world. At this time we ask for privacy as we work our way through this.”
The subtle Spears shout-out came amid a powerful set in which Usher cycled through a series of hits, beginning with “Caught Up,” before hitting “My Confessions, Pt. II,” “U Got It Bad” (featuring H.E.R. on guitar), duets with Alicia Keys on “If I Ain’t Got You” and “My Boo,” an appearance by Jermaine Dupri and later Will.i.am for “OMG” as well as Lil Jon and Ludacris for “Yeah!”
Powered by Billboard.