Usher x The Roots Surprise Brooklyn w/ A Sneak Preview Of Their Roots Picnic Performance!

Elijah C. Watson Elijah Watson serves as Okayplayer's News & Culture Editor. When…
Usher x The Roots Surprise Brooklyn w/ A Sneak Preview Of Their Roots Picnic Performance!

You already knew the annual Roots Picnic is happening this Saturday (that’s tomorrow!) and will feature one of the most entertaining headlining performances for any music festival occurring this year: Usher backed by The Roots. How do we already know this? We witnessed the two “rehearse” for their forthcoming Philadelphia performance at the Brooklyn Bowl last night, where fans who came out for Questlove‘s Bowl Train residency got a special sneak preview of this unique joint performance.

Prior to the event, The Roots bandleader Questlove had dropped multiple hints that this wouldn’t be a regular Bowl Train, throughout the day on his Instagram.

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But by the time Questo unveiled the entire puzzle it was already too late for unsuspecting Ursher fans — the show was sold out.

The Roots took the stage shortly after midnight and spared no time building a funk-fueled groove for Usher to take control of. Then, upon being introduced to the stage by Black Thought, Usher appeared. “Anybody see the game tonight?” the R&B singer asked in reference to the Cavaliers and Warriors game that had just occurred. After stating which team he went for (he’s a Cavs man), Usher proceeded to go into a more upbeat rendition of “Caught Up.”

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Hearing Usher’s catalog reinterpreted as funk and soul jams was a testament to both the singer and the band. The former reminded us that aside from being a phenomenal songwriter, he’s a great entertainer and performer, stopping the band by forcefully raising his fist in the air and bringing it back down to begin the groove all over again. As for the latter, there’s a reason why The Roots are called the hardest working band in showbiz. No one can touch them — the level of musicianship between the members is what keeps each other and themselves in check, creating this perpetual funk machine kept locked into the groove by Questlove himself.

But the night wasn’t only about Usher’s music: there were many moments where the singer’s songs blended into ones from The Roots and other artists. “Nice And Slow” into “Break You Off”; Eddie Frank‘s “Intimate Friends” into “You Make Me Wanna” — the two seamlessly went through decades of black music, the entire set doubling as both an educational experience and dance party.

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By two in the morning the musicians ended their set with the popular Raymond v. Raymond cut, “OMG,” before returning to the stage again for a two song encore: “DJ Got Us Fallin’ In Love” and “Yeah!”

Although “Yeah!” was fun to watch, the best moment came towards the end of “OMG,” when Usher and company changed the sultry dance club track into a gospel shout. From Mark Kelley‘s walking bass line to Captain Kirk Douglas shredding over everything, it was apparent what all of this was really about — Usher and The Roots were here to take us to the church of funk, soul and R&B. And considering the 19 to 20 songs they played and the faces of satisfaction that left the Brooklyn Bowl yesterday night, it’s safe to say that we all enjoyed ourselves.

So get ready, Philly: if this was just a rehearsal, then you all are definitely in for a treat of historic proportions.

 

 

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