Mary J. Blige is less a performer than a force of nature. To call her a diva seems to diminish her stature. On record, she’s a star. But onstage, she’s unparalleled.
The R&B queen exploded onto the RodeoHouston stage Friday night
with a series of songs that typified her joy-and-pain persona. Dressed
in white leather and knee-high black boots, she tore through a 20-minute
medley that included “Ain’t Nobody,” “Family Affair,” “Enough Cryin’,”
“Real Love,” “You Remind Me” and “Love No Limit.” And she barely seemed
to break a sweat.
Blige basked in the applause for a few seconds before jumping into
the old-school swoop of recent single “Don’t Mind.” The crowd knew every
word and often jumped to its feet. She barely had to ask for a
“Y’all some real beautiful people,” she said.
Her gift is the way she channels raw emotion into every song. (Recent
financial troubles likely provided plenty of source material.) Blige is
also able to switch moods at the drop of a designer hat. Her take on U2
hit “One” remains majestic; and she seemed near tears, ironically,
during “Not Gon’ Cry.” Chaka Khan classic “Sweet Thing,” was a soulful
valentine, and feel-good anthem “Fine” had hips swaying and hands in the
“We need this one, I know,” Blige declared before launching into set
closer “No More Drama.” She attacked it, as always, with the fervor of a
gospel revival. The only disappointment? That it was over much too