Usher touches down at SoFi to deliver a set full of hits at DirecTV’s NFL Honors after-party

Usher performs at the "Chairman's Pre-Super Bowl Party" at SoFi Stadium
Usher performs at the Chairman’s Party at SoFi Stadium Thursday night.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

Smoke machines competed with the unseasonably warm night air on Thursday at the Canyons, an open-air venue at SoFi Stadium where DirecTV’s Chairman’s Party, the official after-party of the NFL Honors, was held.

An eclectic cadre of celebrity guests included Cedric the Entertainer, Issa Rae, John Lithgow, Keegan-Michael Key, Leslie Jones, Olympic gymnast Jordan Chiles and filmmaker Taika Waititi, who was there with his girlfriend of nearly a year, Rita Ora.

The Canyons, a massive portico attached to the stadium, was a fitting location for the celebration attended by upward of 400 people. Just before 10 p.m., Grammy winner Usher took the stage to perform a tight, eight-song set of classic hits — including “Caught Up,” “You Don’t Have to Call,” “U Make Me Wanna,” “OMG,” “My Boo” and “Yeah!” — that the crowd went crazy for.

“This is only the beginning of an incredible weekend,” he said, after remarking on how good it felt to be able to assemble maskless for a celebration after nearly two years of social distancing. The R&B megastar wore a double-breasted blazer over a low-cut T-shirt accessorized with an assortment of sparkly chains.

Tamara Simmons, 34, the director of operations for artist management company Salxco, came to the party with co-workers and was the last of her colleagues to stick around after Usher’s set. “Usher was great,” she said. “His Vegas show was amazing. This was a short teaser of it and I feel like he held back a bit because he’s, like, ‘I’ve got to be a little bit corporate,’ but other than that, Usher’s amazing, I’m glad they picked him to perform.”

Bobby Jones, an alum of the NFL Yet College Prep Academy, hit the party after attending an NFL Honors event earlier in the day. “This morning at the press conference for the legacy program they honored my brother Mark and me and gave us free Super Bowl tickets to the awards show tonight” and helped get him into the invite-only event, which boasted a three-hour waitlist by the time it kicked off at 8 p.m.


Jones, a former NBA player who has been living in Italy for the last 12 years, was excited to see Usher perform but said, “It’s bittersweet to be here tonight because I’m a [Kansas City] Chiefs fan.”

Usher bathed in red light on a stage.
Usher performed eight songs on Thursday.
(Allen J. Schaben / Los Angeles Times)

“By default I’m going to root for the Rams because the owner, [Stan] Kroenke, is the owner for the [Denver] Nuggets too, and that’s the team I played for when I was in the NBA,” he added. “So indirectly I hope he wins.”

Work colleagues Matilda Maugh, 25, and Juliana Zettel, 29, would not call themselves football fans but are excited to see the Rams play in their home stadium on Sunday. Zettel recently bought her first home in Inglewood just two miles from the stadium, “so this is pretty cool,” she said.

“I think it’s a beautiful thing that it’s L.A. playing in L.A.,” said Ricky Anderson, 35, a producer of the NFL Honors’ Hall of Fame segment. “I always love when that synchronicity happens because it’s not often. But Inglewood’s about to go up!”

After flying out from New York to work on the Honors, Anderson is excited to be watching the Super Bowl at home among friends. “After doing all this, it is great to be on a couch,” he said.