When musicians are preparing to release a new album, one of the necessary steps on the promotional docket is the album listening party. Most of the time, journalists and other music executives are invited to either a rented out club or a conference room at the record label headquarters to hear the new tracks. That tactic is certainly effective, but doesn’t always lend itself to really “experiencing” the music in the fullest sense of the word. Record label veteran Usher, who has been churning out albums for nearly two decades now, must’ve sat through more than a few boring listening parties over the years, so he decided to step his game up now that he’s getting ready to release his seventh studio album, Looking For Myself. Instead of holding court in some conference room somewhere, Usher instead collaborated with the off-Broadway Fuerza Bruta cast for a one time only night of interactive surprises.
This past Friday night, April 27, a group of invite-only guests gathered in the heart of NYC’s Union Square at the Daryl Roth Theater, unsure of exactly what to expect from this unlikely mash-up. For the unfamiliar, Fuerza Bruta — which is Spanish for “brute force” — is sort of reminiscent of Cirque du Soleil in that they both have incredibly athletic performers, but Fuerza differs in that there’s more crowd participation in the program. This particular show began with “Climax” blaring through the speakers, when Usher suddenly appeared on an elevated treadmill wearing a crisp white suit paired with a turquoise tie, accented with bright socks. Usher ran and ran at top speed until he was noticeably out of breath and perspiring. At first, it was unclear who or what he was running from, but then, out of nowhere, a loud “bang, bang” sound rang through our ears, and Usher fell over with a blood drenched shirt from two apparent gunshot wounds. (Perhaps at that moment he reached the climax the song alludes to?) Like Superman, he quickly jumped back to his feet, removing the shirt (thankfully he had a clean tank top underneath) and presumed running, only this time he was joined by a partner. The two ran while dodging chairs and running through paper walls.