Mary J. Blige and D’Angelo / The Liberation Tour
The Liberation Tour’s is one of this year’s hottest R&B tickets, marking the tenth tour for headliner Mary J. Blige and first US tour by D’Angelo in over a decade.
Special guest D’Angelo wowed critics and audiences alike with his sophomore album "Voodoo," with Rolling Stone ranking the album among the 500 greatest of all time and Q Magazine naming him among the 50 Bands to See Before You Die.
This would come as no surprise to the enraptured house at Bank of America Pavilion in Boston on August 21. His sound is distinctly influenced by mid-eighties era Prince, as D’Angelo settled into long funky jams like "Chicken Grease" and "Brown Sugar" while the audience bumped and swayed along.
His vocals were spot-on and full of funky grit, while the stage presence of his entire band was well-connected. D’Angelo has a unique way of acknowledging and including his band as an integral part of the show experience, again influenced by Prince circa New Power Generation.
Before closing out his set, D’Angelo took to a keyboard sans his accompanying band and provided an intimate overview of his greatest hits. But he gave a longer treatment to his stripped down version of "Untitled (How Does It Feel)."
Mary J. Blige had a tough act to follow, but the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul delivered on a grand scale. She hit the stage with her new rendition of Chaka Khan’s "Ain’t Nodoby" and had the audience on their feet from the opening note. Blige is a superstar, and she knows it. But her confidence is assuring rather than off-putting.
Taking on the role of hip-hop mentor, Blige narrated the musical journey from her "Good Woman Down" to feeling "Just Fine," acknowledging her deep commitment to the African-American community. She sang about the plight of battered women and repeatedly implored the audience to struggle to achieve a college education for themselves and their children. Her message was exactly what was promised by the title: liberation.
But it wasn’t all serious. Blige is an expert showwoman and built to a crescendo of uptempo numbers culminating in "Just Fine." The good energy was palpable as the audience danced and sang like a giant family. Smiling concertgoers even got the security guards in on the fun, pulling them into the aisles to dance. The event felt as much like a funky gospel church singing as a mainstream concert.
And the empowering, soulful environment provided by Mary J. Blige and her crew proved a memorable night for the thousands of dedicated fans who sang their hearts out for nearly twenty-five songs.
Melanie Fiona and Starshell (select venues) are opening for the tour. Both gave stand-out performances and were received warmly by the crowd.
The Liberation Tour is currently touring the US. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.com