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Concert Reviews:
Mary J. Blige Closes DTE Season On A Hote Note

Of the Oakland Press

Posted: Monday, September 29, 2008

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INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- She may sing about a desire for "No More Drama," but Mary J. Blige is not wanting for emotional histrionics at her concerts.

Closing the DTE Energy Music Theatre's 2008 season on Sunday night (Sept. 28), the aptly titled Queen of Hip-Hop Soul delivered an hour and 50 minutes of songs about love, loss, fortitude and survival. As she put it towards the end of the show, "we've been through so much -- we done laughed, we done cried, we damn near died."

At least Blige made it an enjoyable experience, warming up a chilly night with a heated performance that was just as explosive as the show's periodic pyrotechnics.

At this point of her career the onetime P. Diddy protege has 16 years and nine albums' worth of material to draw from, a formidable repertoire almost guaranteed to disappoint some fans with what she chooses NOT to play at any given concert. But backed by a 19-piece ensemble that included full string and horn sections, Blige shoehorned 26 favorites into her set, nine of them in a 20-minute, high-energy medley style blast during which the leather-attired singer ripped through "Grown Woman," "Love is All We Need," "Real Love," "Love No Limit" and "Good Woman Down," among others.

The pacing slowed after that, with longer, fuller performances of songs such as "Gotta Believe," "Not Gon' Cry" and her definitive cover of Chaka Khan's "Sweet Thing." If she wasn't genuinely being carried away by the music, Blige -- who sported four outfits during the night -- was a convincing actress, and renditions of "Take Me as I Am," "I Found My Everything," "No More Drama," "Be Without You" and "I'm Going Down," the latter sung almost entirely by the pavilion-only crowd, provided more crescendos than some artists get to during an entire tour.

Blige knows how to bring the party, too, and she didn't disappoint as she rocked through "MJB Da MVP," "Work That," "Family Affair" and a booty-shaking "Just Fine" that took some fans out of their seats to dance on the unoccupied lawn.

Opener Robin Thicke did an effective job of getting the festivities started with his 45-minute set. Following a brief karaoke exposition by Blige protege Dave Young, Thicke and his seven-piece group rolled on stage to the sounds of James Brown before kicking into "Magic," the first single from Thicke's new album, "Something Else," which comes out Tuesday (Sept. 30). The show mostly focused on its two predecessors, however, mixing uptempo soul struts such as "Wanna Love U Girl," "Ask Myself," "Complicated" and a particularly hot take on "Oh Shooter" with balladic fare like "I Need Love." And covers of D'Angelo's "Brown Sugar" and Al Green's "Let's Stay Together" were creditable nods to a stature Thicke would clearly like to achieve.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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