Going Strong

Young Phoenix piano player trades church hymns for gig with R&B star

The set was so tight (and in synch with the MTV-style video images often interspersed with the live stuff) as to give it a canned feeling; the only reason it felt like a live performance was the sheer volume.

That said, the gig with Usher is providing Buddy Strong with experience for a lifetime, one that should hold him in good stead as his own musical career blossoms.

"I get a chance to show some real musicianship, tasteful stuff, as we back him up," Buddy says. "And I'm getting to see the world and get paid for it."

Immediately after the gig, Buddy boarded one of Usher's five tour buses and headed to the next concert date, in Minneapolis.

"I'll be back around," he said. "Come on down to my dad's church next time I'm in town."

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