Maxwell/Mary J. Blige | 11.12.16

Maxwell echoed Blige’s sentiment of love as he left the crowd on an emotional high full of love and happiness.

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Scottrade Center, St. Louis

Hip-hop legend Mary J. Blige and neo soul icon Maxwell brought their highly anticipated “King and Queen of Hearts” tour to St. Louis. To say that Mary J. has been an influence on me both musically and personally would be an understatement. Not to appropriate her culture, but each of her albums were a lesson on how to tap into my inner strong black woman and be okay just being me. Trust and believe: The opportunity to see one of my musical heroes was one I was not going to pass up.

One note about the makeup of the audience: They all came dressed to impress. No matter where I looked, I was constantly gawking at all the amazing fashions the audience members were sporting. I have been to hundreds of concerts, and I have never seen and audience as gorgeous as this one. They all definitely brought their A-game.

As Blige’s set kicked off, newspaper headlines of her own personal trials and tribulations flew across a massive screen. Even addressing her ongoing divorce from Martin “Kendu” Isaacs, this is why Blige’s fans adore her: She keeps it real at every turn.

She instantly got her fans dancing with “Just Fine,” one of her more upbeat, danceable songs. She utilized the four video screens that would assemble and separate throughout the night extremely well. She then segued into one of her edgier tracks, “The One,” which is full of swagger and style.

The main focus of the night was going to be about love, as she kicked off a set of inspiring performances of “You Bring Me Joy,” “Love Is all We Need,” “Real Love,” and “Be Happy.” During her amazing performance of “Love Is all We Need,” something clicked inside of me as I felt my emotional batteries being recharged. Blige was serving positivity realness, and that was exactly what I needed on this night.

After an emotionally overwhelming performance of “Don’t Mind,” Blige made her way to the crowd. After she gave the men in the audience some rules on how to treat women, she went all in during her performance of “Take Me as I Am.” I got the sense Blige was about to have an emotional breakdown as her vocals became increasingly intense. She was giving her performance every ounce of love, energy, and passion she had in her, and the crowd let her love wash over them.

maryjAnother impressive aspect of Blige’s show was how she introduced her band. Not only did she call them out by name, she had videos of each of them play on the big screen with their names and Twitter handles. This was a very classy touch of respect and love for her band.

The emotional highpoint of the night was when she spoke of her divorce. With tears welling up in her eyes, she slayed—and I mean slayed—the crowd with a mind-blowing performance of her new song, “Thick of It.” As a fan and a music critic, this particular performance will stay with me for a lifetime. Yes, Ms. Blige, you were feeling it and you made me feel it. Bravo.

Closing out her set with such legendary hits as “No More Drama” and “Family Affair,” Mary J gave St. Louis one hell of a concert and proved once again she is the one and only “Queen of Hip Hop.”

Maxwell took the stage next, and let me get this out of the way early: The man is sexy. I don’t care if you are a straight male or a lady-loving lady, all of us have to agree: Maxwell is the embodiment of sexiness, both vocally and physically.

The charm of Maxwell is when he goes into his falsetto voice. Any man who can sing that high with that amount of passion is a rare breed. It is only fitting that his set intro was the Purple One’s “Kiss.” Both Prince and Maxwell share that soft kind of sexy masculinity; both are cut from the same sensual cloth.

Tearing though songs like “Sumthin’ Sumthin’,” “Bad Habits” and “…Til the Cops Come Knockin’,” Maxwell made the ladies swoon as he gave them what they came for: his gorgeous vocals and provocative—but tasteful—dance moves.

The first highlight of his set was when he dedicated Kate Bush’s “This Woman’s Work” to Michelle Obama. With Maxwell kneeling in front of the screen, his admiration for the song was palpable and emotionally inspiring. As he delivered his own flawless version of the song, images of Trayvon Marin and Mike Brown filled the screen, reminding the crowd that black lives matter. The moment was powerful and needed as we enter a very scary time for all minorities in America.

Another highlight of the evening was during songs like “Get to Know Ya” and “Fortunate,” as the crowd paired off and slow danced to each of these quiet storm jams. It was touching to see people connect on such on emotional level as Maxwell kicked out some very sensual vocals.

Wrapping up his set with impressive performances of “ Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder)” and “Pretty Wings,” Maxwell echoed Blige’s sentiment of love as he left the crowd on an emotional high full of love and happiness.

For me, this night was exactly what I needed. Being devastated by the recent election—yes, children, I am just as scared as you are—I felt as if I had lost my reviewer mojo. I didn’t even have the will to write my weekly column, “Five for Friday,” last week. But this night of peace, love, and happiness that both Blige and Maxwell served up gave me back my passion to talk about music, for which I will be eternally indebted. It’s all about love—and if we love each other for the next four years, everything is going to be all right. | Jim Ryan

Photos by Joe Johnson; see more here and here.

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