25 Years In: Baltimore Embraces The Strength Of Mary J. Blige

Does anyone remember the 1998 movie “There’s Something About Mary“? Well that statement still stands true, but we’re not talking about a movie…we’re actually talking about the Queen of Hip-Hop/Soul, Mary J. Blige. Baltimore, Maryland was in for a special treat when the “Strength Of A Woman” Tour landed smack dab in the middle of the Inner Harbor, at one of the most scenic concert venues in the area, Pier Six Pavilion.  The stage was set for everything to be perfect, it was a chill, calm and relaxed Sunday evening, we had some of the most beautiful weather of the season, the show took place right on the water front, and then we were about to take a trip into two decades worth of classic music.

The show started PROMPTLY at 8 PM with Lalah Hathaway serving as the opening act for this show. If you’ve ever seen Ms. Hathaway perform live, you know that you are in for a soul soothing experience. She strutted out on stage to roaring applause from the audience, which wasn’t any surprise to me, and kicked things straight into gear. During her 45 minute set, she took us to church, jazz clubs via her scat section didn’t forget to let us know that she has a album out, “Lalah Hathaway: LIVE“, that you can purchase at all major music retailers.

9:15 PM hit and you could feel the anticipation building in the crowd, fans rushing from the concession stands to their seats, folks standing up out of their chairs with their cell phones in hand, waiting for the show to start, and then it all began. A brief video intro played that built up to the big reveal…a silhouette of MJB standing with one hand on her hip against a white wall. The platform on which she stood began to rotate and showed the lady of the night rocking a pair of gold sequence cargo pants, a white tank top, and totally blinged out. With her curly blonde tresses tied back, Mary began to hold court by opening up her show with the track “Love Yourself” from her new album, which is an expression and feeling that we are sure she’s applying to herself with all that’s been going on in her life lately.

Gears quickly shifted as she went into the up-tempo song “The One“, and the Strength Of A Woman train was full steam ahead as her hits just started to flow like water. During the moment when she performed the song that put her on the map, “Real Love”, a brief vocal break was taken when she held the mic out to allow the audience to sing the song for her, and boy, did they go in. Singing every lyric word for word, you could have almost sworn you were transported back to a high school parking lot circa 1992.

Midway through the show, a wardrobe change ushered in a slowed down set, but would serve as the presentation of her “Strength of a Woman” movement. Everyone is fully aware that an angry, hurt Mary J. Blige will create some of her best bodies of work, so the same can be said for her new album. Almost every song from the collection paints a picture of what she’s going through in her very public divorce, but that makes it even more relatable because it’s something that most women have gone through in life themselves…THIS is what makes MJB still relevant all these years later.

Although there is an apparent amount of pain balled up inside, I also noticed a “different” Mary on stage. There was this confidence that was projected through her stage presence that I haven’t seen before. Most artists say that being on tour is one of the most cathartic feelings ever, so this probably is the biggest win coming from her run of the SOAW shows.

Fans expect high levels of theatrics at any concert from the hip-hop/soul queen, but I don’t think they were in for what happened when she performed “No More Drama“. The one song that speaks on ditching all types of drama and problems in your life was the one that mustered up the most drama. Towards the end of the song’s climax, we had a front row view at some church-like shouting, as if she had caught the spirit, which all culminated in her passing out on the floor, dropping the mic…the crowd went nuts!

This tour not only served as a celebration of the strength that women truly possess, allowing them to conquer anything that attempts to take them down, but also as the 25th anniversary of her debut album “What’s The 411?” If this tour is any indication of what’s to come, I think that we have 25 more years of “Mary dancing” that will continue to entertain the masses and songs that will be the voice of many women, regardless of age, race, gender or creed.

 

 

 

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