If you didn’t believe the once-troubled Mary J. Blige when she first crooned the words “No More Drama” back in 2002, then you should check out her live show these days.
The Queen of Hip-hop/Soul took the stage at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall last night (Oct. 11) for the first of two back-to-back shows in her hometown. Dressed in body-hugging black pants, jacket and boots and sporting dark shades, the Yonkers native performed an nearly two-hour set that was anything but gloomy.
Mary’s erratic yet endearing dancing — at times backed by two male dancers and encouraged by concertgoers with handclaps — as well as her confident diva antics and words of self-appreciation made for an energetic, uplifting performance even as she performed tracks from her sometimes murky past.
Mary opened her “Music Saved My Life” tour with Game’s “Hate It Or Love It” remix, singing her verses and even tapping her rapping alter-ego Brook Lynne for the rap portion of the track. She then transitioned into “The One,” sans Drake, engaging in a swaggered dance routine of hip movements and arm waves that only Mary could pull off.
“New York City! Ladies, where you at?” she asked, looking for reinforcement from her female-heavy audience. “Guys are always trying to play games and I’m sick of it for you,” she testified before breaking into “Enough Cryin’.”
It was then, though, that Mary took it back, singing a medley of the all-too-popular women anthems off her earlier sets, including “You Bring Me Joy,” “Be Happy,” “You Remind Me,” “Real Love,” “Everyday It Rains” and “I’m the Only Woman.”
“Thank you so much, New York City, I love you,” she said after the hit-after-hit run. “Thank you for coming out tonight to the ‘Music Saved My Life’ tour because you guys helped me through the years just as much as I helped you,” she aknowledged.
At this point, the stage lights went dim and what appeared to be stars glistened from the backdrop behind the full-band and three back-up singers. “Where all the ladies at?” Mary asked again as the thunderous room, all on their feet, yelled, stomped and clapped in excitement while fan favorites like “Reminisce” and “Love Without a Limit” came blaring through the speakers.
Gone for a brief second, Mary got more comfortable, this time wearing a white tank top, tights, ankle boots, a corsette belt and ankle boots as a royalty chair sat in the middle of the stage. She banged out more smashes from her collection, including “I Never Wanna Live Without You” and “Seven Days.”
“Sometimes you gotta go in, all the way in,” she said after “Your Child,” which she ended with a freestyle about deadbeat dads.
“Deep Inside” and “I Am” followed before Mary asked the audience to “sing this one with me” and the obedient, long-standing crowd hollered the words to “Sweet Thing.”
Mary took it down again with “Not Gon’ Cry,” and almost appeared to cry — tears of joy, we’re assuming — as she belted the words aimed at unfaithful men. But, thankfully, the 39-year-old singer is well past her days of heartbreak. “Thank you so much, New York City,” she thanked again. “It feels so good to have your hometown really support you and rock with you for so long.”
“No More Drama,” “Just Fine,” “Family Affair” and “Breakthrough” served as the concert closer as the fans continued to egg Mary on with their collective noise as she looked around the room in appreciation. “Thank you so much fam,” she said once again. “Wow. Thank you so, so, so, so much. I can’t ever thank you enough.”
R&B newcomer Miguel opened the show with an extended rendition of his chart hit “All I Want Is You,” while powerhouse Jazmine Sullivan performed a handful of hits from her debut as well as her latest “Holding You Down.” Meanwhile, El DeBarge served as the liasion between younger and older fans, who proved his falsetto was in tact years later.