Over the past 14 years, Mary J. Blige has proven why she is the self proclaimed “Queen of Soul.” She’s been through it all -from drug addiction to abusive relationships – and when you listen to a Mary J. Blige album, it is her life experiences and pain that you’re hearing. (It’s that thing called soul that so many of today’s artists lack).
It’s that rawness that has allowed Blige to release seven albums, sell over 12 million records worldwide, win three Grammys, sing with greats from U2 to Aretha Franklin and eventually earn herself a spot in music history. Never afraid to confront the problems that plagued her life through song, Mary J. Blige has also never been opposed to sharing her newfound happiness with her fans. She did just that when she bought her Breakthrough Experience Live tour to a packed house at the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise on August 25, giving fans the opportunity to truly witness her ‘breakthrough.’
The concert started with a photographic homage to the albums that have represented both her career’s pitfalls and triumphs and Blige got the show off to a good start dressed in all white, from hat to toe, looking like the wife of a preacher. Backed by a five piece band and three backup singers, she opened up the show with her career anthem, “MVP.” With each album came her arsenal of hits. From “Real Love” to “No More Drama” to “Enough Cryin,” she performed 25 songs in total. When the music started to “I’m Going Down” from Blige’s My Life, the audience took over her singing duties and in unison, the crowd sung the majority of the remake which gave Blige an unexpected break.
Before Blige brought the crowd to their feet for nearly two hours, ex-Destiny’s Child member LeToya and R&B crooner Jahiem warmed up the audience as the opening acts. LeToya, whose self-titled album recently debuted at number one on the Billboard charts, seemed to have difficulty connecting with the few in the audience. With a 25 minute set, she seemed to win the audience over when her hit single “Torn” closed out her set. Jahiem seemed to pick up the momentum where LeToya left off – appealing to the mature ladies in the crowd – with his live band and old soul vocals.
Blige’s past three albums (No More Drama, Love & Life and her most recent The Breakthrough) have represented a new chapter in her life, one of a spiritual and personal growth that has allowed her to understand the true meaning of what love means. Because of her relationship with God and her husband, Kendu Issac, Blige took time throughout each of her sets to speak to those in attendance, hoping to reach out to those individuals who may still be battling their own personal demons.
Telling the audience that she had to live and accept herself before she could truly be happy, she broke into her recent single “Take Me As I Am.” Blige ended her set with her chart-topping single “Be Without You” and did an encore closing the tour with her first number one Billboard single, “Family Affair.”
It is Blige’s ability to keep it real and sometimes bluntly honest about her life that allows her to connect so intimately with her fans.
Marcus Washington may be contacted at email@example.com