You may not recognize Terius Nash, but chances are you know his work. As the prolific mastermind who penned such infectious songs as Beyonce’s “Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It),” Rihanna’s “Umbrella” and Justin Bieber’s “Baby,” among others, Nash is a behind-the-scenes hitmaker. But at the Fillmore Silver Spring on Saturday — under his stage name, The-Dream — Nash took the spotlight. He’s touring to promote his repeatedly delayed fourth album, “Love IV MMXII,” which is due out around Memorial Day. And if this performance was any indication, we shouldn’t rush him.
The hour-long show felt like the great first act of a disappointing play; the potential was there, but the ends were loose. Nash hardly touched any new material, a puzzling move for a guy whose had such success in the past two years. Instead, he drew heavily from his first two albums, “Love/Hate” and “Love vs. Money,” but he only sang one song from the soul-baring “1977,” which he released on the Internet last summer when tensions with his label, Def Jam, ran high. In short, Nash was his old self — which felt like a missed opportunity.
The intensity and emotion that are so tangible on Nash’s recordings were missing from his live performance. In a moment that should have been huge, he was joined onstage by R&B newbie Casha to sing “Kill the Lights,” a seductive, synth-filled single from the forthcoming album, but her voice was largely drowned out by background music. (She wasn’t alone: Nash’s less-than-mighty vocals were carried by a generous backtrack and the eager audience.) During the steamy “Purple Kisses,” he brought a female fan on stage only to offer her a lukewarm serenade. And when the show ended, he left the stage so quickly that the audience hardly had time to applaud. It was 9:45 p.m. — what was the rush?
Despite the show’s brevity, he found time to flirt with women in the audience and taunt their boyfriends, to shed a few layers of clothing and even make remarks about music-industry copycats. “You meet a lot of fake people in this business . . .” he said to the crowd, pledging not to name names. “You have some in your CD changer right now.” The audience responded with appropriate “ooohs,” but Nash’s unbridled arrogance made it hard to side with him. To be fair, he doesn’t seem any more comfortable throwing jabs than he does onstage. He’s a star on the writer’s bench — and, judging from this performance, he’s happier there.