New York Post: Blige's hip 'revival'

October 13, 2010
Seeing Mary J. Blige in concert last night at Radio City Music Hall was like going to a church revival meeting where the preacher didn't show, but the hymns carried the service.
Blige's music, whether hip-hop, soul or R&B, all had a clear message that you have to be strong and open to love in a harsh world.
It might sound like too narrow a focus for such a large show, yet she pulled it off because not only is the Yonkers native a powerhouse singer, but on home turf she had the relaxed and confident quality of someone who knew she could do no wrong.

During intermission, before Blige's set, Lakisha Harris, an 18-year-old Bushwick, Brooklyn, student, explained her devotion to the singer, saying "Mary's the queen, she says you have to love yourself, and she sings it. She knows what's important to her girls and why we've got to stand up for ourselves."
In fact, that theme of self-empowerment was integral to the show despite there being little between song patter. In songs, strength of character was the undercurrent of the vocally challenging acoustic "Take Me As I Am" and the heartfelt "Enough Cryin'." The idea of responsibility was at the center of "Your Child" and self-worth was the spark in the tune "I Am."
After a very hearty sing-along, Blige declared "my fan club is in the house." No lie there. When the crowd wasn't singing along, they urged the singer on by chanting "Go Mary! Go Mary!"
Blige aimed to please, hitting most of the highlights from her eight multiplatinum albums, including her most recent CD, "Stronger with Each Tear."
The big complaint about the set was while it showcased her hip-hop skills and her R&B styling, it ignored her ability to rock.
Both her covers of U2's inspirational "One" and Led Zeppelin's most famous power ballad "Stairway to Heaven" were ditched at this performance.
Even without those two, Blige got to sing about 30 songs -- some unabridged, some attached to each other in medleys. The tunes were presented smartly with a six-piece band and the vocals were fattened by three backup singers.
She even had the help of Swizz Beatz, who dropped in to reprise his duet with Blige for the song "Fancy" off her new "Tear" CD.
At this show there wasn't a phony lip-synched note, just pure live music brimming with spontaneity and musical grace. It was the kind of regal performance you'd expect from the Queen of Hip-Hop.

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