Mary J. Blige exuberantly and defiantly underscored why she still remains one of music’s top entertainers as she closed out BET Experience at L.A. Live’s (June 27-29) concert series at Los Angeles’ Staples Center.
Introduced by a video montage of her Grammy-winning career—opening with the declaration “We Ain’t Done Yet”—Blige hit a packed Staples Center ready to give the audience a full workout. Dressed all in white (body-hugging shorts, sleeveless top, jacket and high-top sneakers), she jumped right into “Enough Cryin.” And that set the tone for a show that was part self-empowerment session, relationship-building guide, girl talk get-together and house party.
Over the course of the next 90 minutes, Blige mixed a healthy portion of career touchstones with new music. Whether dancing across the stage (sometimes with two taut-muscled gents), sitting down during more intimate moments or crouched over while delivering a particularly gut-wrenching verse, she kept fans on their feet. Among the Blige classics on tap: “Real Love,” “Love No Limit,” “My Life,” “Not Gon’ Cry” and “Share My World.” Before performing two songs (“Suitcase,” “Night to Remember” from her latest project, the “Think Like a Man Too” soundtrack, Blige also tore through “The One,” “I’m Going Down”) and “Family Affair.” And throughout, Blige’s grit-edged voice never sounded better.
“Don’t let other people’s comments bring you down,” Blige cautioned the audience as she thanked them for their support “all these years.”
Equally impressive last night was Trey Songz, who had earlier performed on the BET Awards 14 next door at the Nokia Theatre. From the time the sexy singer hit the Staples Center stage until he walked off 50 minutes later, it was non-stop screaming from the mostly female audience—especially when he took off his sweater to reveal finely toned muscles and washboard abs through a sleeveless T.
But Songz proved he’s more than just body candy as his charismatic tenor (sometimes shifting into falsetto) kept fans singing along to a steady stream of hits and other songs culled from his five (soon to be six) studio albums. “2 Reasons,” “Heart Attack,” “Can’t Help But Wait,” “Bottoms Up,” “Neighbors Know My Name” and “Can’t Be Friends” were key crowd pleasers.
But the house went ballistic when Songz brought surprise guests Chris Brown and BET Awards new artist winner August Alsina onstage. For Songz and Alsina, it was a continuation of the pair’s reconciliation earlier on the BET Awards stage following a beef dating back to March. The three performed their remix version of Alsina’s “I Luv This Shit.” Then Tyga joined in for a rendition of “Loyal.” Songz closed with an energetic turn on his latest hit “Na Na,” joined by Brown, Tyga, Alsina and Ty Dolla $ign, who’d previously hit the stage for the remix of “Paranoid” featuring Songz.
Owing to the nearly four-hour BET Awards show, this reviewer only caught the tail end of Jennifer Hudson’s show, namely “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.” Hudson’s vocals still send chills. Rounding out the concert bill were sets by Mack Wilds, Sevyn Streeter and TGT.