I attended the King and Queen of Hearts World Tour in Atlanta at Philips Arena. I left the show with one thought. R & B music is not dead. Its alive and thriving. I went to this show with an open mind. Didn't know what to expect. I had never been to a Maxwell or Mary J. Blige concert before. They are both brilliant accomplished musicians that I've watched most of my life. But did they still have that spark?
I grew up listening to Mary J. Blige. She was always a positive female figure that stood in her beliefs. She never let anyone step on her and she would usually vent through song. Her catalog spans almost 3 decades and she is still relevant today. Regardless of who you are or where you come from, there is at least 1 Mary J. Blige track that resonates with you. She is not afraid to be vulnerable and share her world with fans. I have been a fan since the beginning and this show solidified it.
I was first introduced to Maxwell with his single "Til the cops come knocking". At the time, I was 12 and had no idea what he was singing about. However I do remember being enchanted by the velvety sound of his soulful voice. I recall my mom asking me if I had seen her "Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite" album. I think she knew I had it but I promised to help her look for it.
An artist named Ro James opened the show promptly at 7pm. They needed a powerhouse to open the show in order to get the crowd warmed up. They succeeded in this effort. Ro James brought an energy out to the arena that no one could have predicted. His voice was inviting, flirty but definitely on key.
His set was original. The front end of Cadillac El Dorado protruded the stage with its headlights lit. Who was this guy & why haven't I heard about him before? He was very open and shared some of his story.
His father was in the military so he traveled the world at a young age. He saw many cultures which made him appreciate his own existence. His father was also a pastor so he was restricted to gospel music while growing up. As he became of age, he explored different music genres including rock and roll. Rhythm and Blues opened up a special place in his heart. One day he decided to pursue his dream and now he is the opening act for Maxwell and Mary J. Blige. Ro James is unpretentious and fully aware of his talent. The more I listened to him, the more I realized why he was the front runner.
Ro James had nothing but positive energy to share with us. I appreciated that. He encouraged everyone to follow their heart regardless of what people say. I talk about that same thing on my podcast. At the end of the set he performed his US Hot R&B/Hip-Hop single "Permission". I heard that song before. But I had no idea that it was him. Look out for more from Ro James in 2017!
The break in between sets was perfect. This gave people ample time to get a snack, go to the restroom or do whatever they needed. When it was time the next act, the arena commanded our attention. Everything went pitch black. Then newspaper headlines appeared on the screen. "Mary J. Blige sued over cancelled show", "Mary J. Blige files for divorce from husband/manager" and "Mary J. Blige divorce drama". The world was already talking about her life. She didn't avoid it. She went right to the center of her controversial divorce. And then a blue silhouette accompanied that legendary voice of this queen.
She started her show as only true royalty could. With a bang! There was pyrotechnics, steamers and a giant platform with her initials "MJB". The Queen of Hip Hop Soul had arrived and we were in for one heck of a show. She could not have stepped out to a more appropriate song. Love Yourself. The track details how you should love yourself before you can love someone else.
Her outfit was unlike anything I've ever seen her wear. It was epic. Mary wore thigh-high boots, brown leggings, leather jacket, fur vest and MJ inspired shades. There was not 1 hair on her head out of place. She had 2 costume changes. The next one was a spiked leather top with leather shorts and black pumps. The last was my absolute favorite. It was a black open front blouse, black hot pants and royal blue thigh high boots. Gorgeous! Bravo style team!
Her presence was out of this world. I didn't sit during her entire set. I found myself chanting songs along with the arena. Right there and then I realized that Mary was my Elvis. I can't think of any musicians that I have such a strong connection to their music. I can recall where I was, emotionally, in my life with every MJB album.
Mary took time to show her vulnerable side too. She talked about how her life is being exploited through messy blogs, celebrity gossip and everything in between. But despite that she is still standing. She is still a fighter. And she will not be defeated. Powerful words from one of the most influential entertainers on the planet. The glitz and glamour are great. This wonder woman relates to her audience by keeping it real. She gives us brutal honesty and that’s one of the reasons why I respect her so much.
She also took a moment before performing her current single "Thick of it" to recognize someone special. The famed singer recognized Atlanta's own Monica for being a real friend. Mary didn't go into detail and it wasn't needed. She just wanted to say thank you to someone that helped uplift her during a difficult time.
Maxwell entered like a true king. I've never seen or heard of an artist glide down a platform to the main stage. Yes. Glide. His feet never left the ground. Maxwell was suited up from head to toe including the most debonair shades. And he proceeded to dance down the incline. He knows exactly how to make an entrance. He showed his humorous side as he sang about being in Atlanta for Thanksgiving. Joked about being stuffed with turkey and wondering if he could get up on stage.
His enchanting vocals put me in a mellow mood. My eyes were glued on him and there was nothing anyone could do. It wasn't until he said that we had been on this ride with him for over 20 years. Was it? It was. I could hardly believe it. Well over 20 years and he still had that spark. His energy was high and he was right where he needed to be. I lost track of how many times he thanked us for joining him that night. Humble, handsome and talented beyond his wildest dreams.
Both Mary J. Blige and Maxwell stand the test of time. Age is nothing but a number. They may have gotten older but their core principles of timeliness, professionalism and the ability to captivate remain unchanged. The impression you leave on others is what lasts. This started off as an assignment but now I'm even a bigger fan of both acts! I also appreciate the introduction to Ro James. I will be looking for him in the billboard top 100.
I applaud Live Nation yet again for another well executed show. Just as the Pentatonix show started on time, this one also began as scheduled. There was no delay. They have set the standard for others to follow. When a show does not start on time, an audience can interpret that as their time and money are not valued. This company values its customers. Bravo Live Nation!
I appreciate the opportunity to cover this show for Ash Said It Blog. Thank you to Philips Arena for being more than accommodating. I look forward to many more compelling Live Nation shows in 2017.
If you'd like to see this show in a town near you, check out www.LiveNation.com for upcoming dates. This is a once in a lifetime event so take full advantage.