Human nature is a little twisted sometimes, especially when love is involved. Case in point: Imagine if you are in a 20-plus year friendship. You run the whole gamut of emotions with the homie with no pretenses, unconditionally. Or is it?
Suppose it’s really one facet of the person you “love?” The facet that resonates with you, and you seek that connection even at the expense of the happiness and well-being of your friend.
Perhaps it’s a simplified synopsis, but essentially that’s the relationship some of the millions of fans harbor for Mary J. Blige. The initial attraction to Blige was how in her sound, look and persona, we thought she was just like us. When we really listened to her, however, the bond was solidified. With the content and delivery of her songs we knew she was one of us.
Unfortunately, a few pockets of her fan base want her to stay that person, at least musically. Thus, the perception is that Blige produced her best material when she was in a painfully downtrodden space. Some did not just verbalize that theory, they wished for it. Because it is splashed in the tabloids and trending heavily on social media, we see now that Blige is indeed going through some things right now. Coincidentally, she released her 13th studio album (not counting the “What’s the 411? Remix” and “Think Like a Man Too” projects), “Strength of a Woman.” Opening sale figures reveal “Strength” has become her strongest debut on the U.S. Billboard 200 in seven years, coming in at No. 3. Billboard revealed that the lead single, “Thick of It,” earned the fastest climb to No. 1 on the Adult R&B chart in more than two decades.
The true testament of songs from a new Blige album is measured in her real element: onstage. Established long ago as a legacy artist capable of touring just because, her performances will take a new spin as we see what songs from the new album will make the vaunted set list. We’ll know soon enough because dates for the “Strength of a Woman Live” tour have been announced.
Supporting Blige on the tour will be Lalah Hathaway. Tickets go on sale Friday, May 19, at ticketmaster.com for the Aug. 18, Ford Amphitheatre at Coney Island Boardwalk and Aug. 19, Theater at Madison Square Garden dates. Other dates that can have some interest here locally will be July 3 at the Borgata Hotel Casino & Spa in Atlantic City and July 1 at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome in New Orleans.
The July 1 event, as part of the Essence Music Festival, marks the first time ever both the Essence Festival mainstage and super lounges will feature an all-female roster. Curated by Blige herself, the evening will include performances by Chaka Khan, Jill Scott, Jazmine Sullivan, Monica, Lalah Hathaway, Remy Ma, Teyana Taylor, Jhene Aiko, Lizzo, Ari Lennox, Michel’le, The Jones Girls featuring Shirley Jones and PJ.
I can attest that by the time Blige hits home, the show should be hitting on all cylinders. This past weekend, in honor of Mother’s Day, she held down two sold-out performances at the Grand Theater at Foxwoods Resort Casino. In a room that is intimate enough to touch her fans, yet large enough to shake when the house is getting rocked, Blige set a tone and sent a huge message. Her Day 1 fans know that she rarely has shortchanged or forsaken her concert audience. Now add to that the fact that it might be some truth to her responding to her pain with great work. Imagine what that night is gonna be like.
Over and out. Holla next week. Til then, enjoy the nightlife.