Usher took the Barclays Center stage in handcuffs, underscoring the point of the "Tidal X: 1020" benefit Tuesday night.
With help from Nas, he performed his new single "Chains," which protests the deaths of unarmed people of color killed by police or security officers. It was the most direct political statement of the 2 1/2 hour show, which was also live-streamed on the Tidal music service, but the spirit of cooperation may have been the broader take-away.
Beyoncé shared the stage with Nicki Minaj for a massive version of "Feeling Myself" that featured Beyoncé and her dancers dressed in pink and Minaj and her dancers in black. Beyoncé then joined Jay Z for a raucous version of his hit "Holy Grail."
"We raised a lot of money," Jay Z said during his short set, adding that the benefit would become an annual event. "We're also having a good time."
Organizers say "Tidal X: 1020" is the first in a series of events aimed at raising awareness and funds for projects that offer "transformative and positive social impact worldwide." All proceeds from Tuesday's show go to the New World Foundation to promote furthering civil rights.
Alessia Cara was an early highlight with a groove-driven version of her hit "Here," as was country singer Thomas Rhett with his hit "Die a Happy Man." However, the early parade of artists doing one or two songs made it hard for most to keep the groove going. Even Damian Marley, who became the newest co-owner of Tidal on Tuesday, left the stage too soon after doing only "Welcome to Jamrock." Nick Jonas left after only "Levels."
Though musically the night may have seemed a bit disjointed, the idea of bringing together artists of various genres to stand for civil rights was a powerful one.