Mary J. Blige and Maxwell gave thousands of their fans something to be thankful for this Thanksgiving weekend. The Philips Arena was one of the stops on their King and Queen of Hearts Tour. Maxwell and Mary J. Blige each have new music that they released earlier this year. Maxwell’s blackSUMMERS’night and Mary J. Blige’s single “Thick of It” on the soon to be released Strength of a Woman. Each of these releases reminded us all that these two were artists worth coming out to see. Atlanta turned out for the show in style and packed the Phillips Arena. The men and women were dressed in some of their finest and ready for a night of top notch entertainment.
The intro for Mary J. Blige put her recent marital woes front and center. With images that spanned the stage, we got a tour of the news and tabloid coverage of her divorce proceedings. You could hear the murmurs of the crowd as everyone’s heart went out to Mary. This somber mood quickly evaporated as she stepped out on stage in a fiery display of pyrotechnics and sang some of her uplifting songs. These included “Love No Limit” and “Just Fine.” Like many of us, Mary has had her share of relationship ups and downs throughout her life. This brings a realness and authenticity to her lyrics and her performance on stage. As she performed “Just Fine” I could sense the healing effect of the song, a mantra said before the mirror every day to get through tough times.
During her set Mary gave some advice to the fellas. She wanted to give us some advice from a woman’s perspective “once we say ‘I love you’ we expect some things.” This raw and real list included nuggets of wisdom such as: “make sure we are your only queen”; don’t be intimidated by your woman’s success and; “never compare me to another female.” Her most important nugget of wisdom was that “once trust is lost the relationship is over.”
Rocking some knee high blue boots, Mary J. Blige then took us on a tour of her early catalog… “this is for my fans that have been with me from day ONE!” This part of her set included songs from her 1996 Share My World and 1994’s My Life. Crowd participation was at it’s height when she sang her remix of the Rose Royce classic “I’m Goin’ Down.” As the crowd sang their hearts and lungs out, the angst of past relationships gone bad was on everyone’s mind.
Mary shared “As y’all know, there’s a lot going on right now. I’m going through some heavy shhhh…” and then moved into “Thick of It”, her new single. The huge screens on the stage were filled with images of storm clouds and lightning and Mary moved into a heart wrenching performance of “Not Gone Cry.” Despite the gut wrenching messages of these songs she ended this part of her set with some optimism:
Broken heart again
Another lesson learn
Better know your friends
Or else you will get burn
Gotta count on me
Cause I can guarantee
That I’ll be fine – “No More Drama”
Mary kicked up the tempo to end the night with a melody of songs including “What’s the 411”, “All I Need” , “You Don’t Have to Worry”, “Family Affair” “Sweet Thing” and “You Remind Me.” With the crowd dancing in the aisles and cheering each time Mary started one of her hit songs I could feed the energy within the Phillips Arena shift to uplifting and positive.
Mary J. Blige put on a show to remember!
After Mary’s performance, I could have packed up and headed home feeling fulfilled by her performance but… there was Maxwell!
Maxwell stepped out of a cloud of smoke in his now signature look of a dark suit, white shirt and skinny tie. He opened his set with something new “Hostage” and something old “Till the Cops Come Knocking.” He then brought the crowd to tears with his rendition of Kate Bush’s song “This Woman’s Work.” This song about unexpected and frightening loss paired with images of Prince, David Bowie, Muhammad Ali, Trevon Martin and Black Lives Matters protests is a memory that will stay with me forever.
During tonight’s show Maxwell joked about the number of parents there would be nine months from now. Crooning his way through songs like “Life Time” and “Whenever Wherever Whatever” with his smooth falsetto, I was reminded that he was indeed one of the kings of baby makin’ music. Not quite as slow and sultry as some of his older ballads, his new song “Lake By the Ocean” is a true love ballad.
“the song [Lake By the Ocean] represents falling in love after a very tough trial period in life and finding contentment in the smallest things next to the biggest things. So, being able to be content in a lake when you have an entire ocean near you is, for me, the epitome of true happiness.” – Maxwell
With flashbacks to his days of rockin’ an afro and hippy clothes dominating the giant screens on stage, Maxwell took us back 20 years with “Sumthin’ Sumthin.'”
Maxwell made my night when he performed my favorite song from his rich catalog, “Fortunate,” followed by “Adore” by Prince. Knowing the mood that he was setting he continued his earlier message to the crowd “I hope that you feel like making love after the show.” He cemented this message as he closed out the show with “Ascension (Don’t Ever Wonder)” and “Pretty Wings.”
Like many people in the crowd, I hoped that we would see Mary J. Blige and Maxwell on stage together. This dream didn’t come to realization tonight. I DID take some creative license with the cover image on this article to bring the two together. With them touring together, we fans can only hope that they may one day collaborate on a song or three.