Everywoman blues

Mary J. Blige at Bank of America Pavilion
By MICHAEL FREEDBERG  |  August 4, 2006

060804_blige_main
Mary J. Blige
The next day, it would be announced that Mary J. Blige’s opening act, former Destiny’s Child member LeToya Luckett, had the hottest-selling album in the country. But on Tuesday, one of the hottest, globally warmed evenings in the last decade, Blige commanded the stage, singing and strutting her maximum stuff at the Bank of America Pavilion. Playing to a full house of standing, screaming fans with hands upraised, Blige performed, first, her uptempo, jump and flash music and, second – and much more intense – her music of personal pain. But first came the flash portion of her show; Blige entered from the top of an enormous multi-level stack of staging and speakers, accompanied by pyro fireworks galore, wearing a glittery rompsuit (with the bust cut out) and an equally glittery brimmed hat. Then came the short intermission followed by Blige making her entrance wearing a to-die-for black pantsuit with lavender-colored BabyPhat top and a black newsboy cap.

If in her first set she looked, sang, and moved quite like Janet Jackson, there was nothing but pure Blige now. Talking to her fans, telling them “I get really tired of women who try to please everybody. . . accept yourself for who you are,” she sang “Take Me As I Am,” from The Breakthrough (Geffen;2005). It’s a song of self in which she assures “She’s on solid ground/She’s been lost and found/Ask me how I know?/Because she is me.” Affirmation was followed by an entire series of relationship songs, which she introduced by saying to her fans, “I don’t need a psychiatrist, I just record my pain. Please be my therapist for a minute?” And pain it was: songs like “I’m Goin’ Down” and “No More Drama,” in which Blige – riffing her vocals and riffing them again, ripping apart the melody – delved as deeply into the hurt in her soul as any soul or blues singer in the past 35 years. Wearing black pants suits, these as drab as the mood of hurt, she brought two male baritones in succession, singing, first, as an arguing lover and, second, as the new man in her life. Alone again, Blige sang of abandonment, lost love, and sad darkness. Screaming and tearing away at her voice, Blige was everywoman, unforgettable, impossible not to cry with.

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