Columbus, OH, Germain Amphitheater, August 18, 2006

 

Written and photos by: Jason Perlman

 

Although many didn't become fans of Mary J. Blige until her mega-radio hit No More Drama, what is more relevant is Blige's career up until that point of becoming a cross-over performer. Unlike many artists who write about experiences happening around them, Blige used her own experiences to relate to her audience, while at the same time showing the world her flaws and misgivings.

 

After her acclaimed What's the 411, Blige followed it up with My Life, which should be an anthem for many women who are afraid to talk about what has happened in their lives. With that record, Blige solidified herself as a staple in the world of R&B, and at the same time, began to become an icon for women to mentor themselves after and follow her lead in talking about various issues.

 

But even with such critical success, it was No More Drama that broke the barrier for Blige and she was on her way to being the star that she is today. With P. Diddy helping out, Blige was able to still be her true self, but at the same time was able to add commercial appeal to her music. That combination can be deadly for many artists, but Blige was able to balance the two, and the follow up records, Love and Life and Breakthrough have also been able to walk that tightrope of commercial and critical rave.

 

Blige brought that high wire act to Germain Amphitheater with the Breakthrough: Experience tour, and her near 30-song set was filled with her life, her loves and her forlorn.

After beginning the show atop her set with smoke billowing around her, Blige broke into Gonna Breakthrough, and remained atop her world on stage for nearly the entire song. Adorned in all black, including a floral-trimmed black fedora, Blige dressed the part of bad girl, yet her sultry and virtuous voice played the devil's advocate to her look. As Blige glided down the steel steps to become closer to her audience, the band broke into MJB Da MVP, and the thought of whether Blige would play earlier material started creeping into the minds of some. But that quickly faded when Real Love was executed third, and for the rest of the night, the crowd was getting into each song Blige and company performed.

 

With this being a pavilion-only show, it was a toss-up as to how Blige would perform. But for as much as she commands attention on stage, her band, which is made up of nearly a dozen performers, were tremendous in their role. Too often, R&B bands are taking the roll of hip-hop and using a lot of tracked music and DJs to fill in the music behind the lyrics, but Blige knows the importance of quality music and musicians and surrounds herself with both. Her ability to be a diva, yet to allow the music to take over when necessary is what makes Blige stand apart. Not only does Blige have a love of her music, but also she has a love for music in general, and she gets as immersed in her own lyrics as she does from the sounds coming from each instrument.

 

Blige showed Columbus why she is analytically one of the top R&B artists performing today. Often underplayed and underrated because she wears enough clothes to be sophisticated and sings about life rather than fame, Blige proved through her live performance that regardless of culture status, she is a force in the music industry and a role model for new artists to look up to.

Mary J. Blige
Mary J. Blige
Mary J. Blige
Mary J. Blige
Mary J. Blige
Mary J. Blige