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Mary J Blige At Madison Square Garden, Thursday, November 10th, 2016, Reviewed

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Fresh from her hideous interview with former President Elect Hillary Clinton, where she held Hillary’s hand and recited the lyric to Bruce Springsteen’s “41 Shots”, I wouldn’t have touched her performance at MSG with a ten foot pole except

1 – I had time to kill before a different show in the village

and

2 – I’d just assumed that on a tour with Maxwell, Maxwell was second banana and went on first… he didn’t and I missed him.

But the set Mary J delivered at MSG Thursday night was head and shoulders above the last time I’d seen her (at the same venue).  “Are you feeling alright? We’re gonna be alright…” Mary claimed 30 minutes into the set and then she proved that feeling alright means ticking back the clock and running at the audience with a tight funk band behind her, and one masterful soul dance song after another.

In a terrific review (here) on Billboard, Elias Leight noted: “… she was recreating (all those) samples live onstage  with her muscular funk ensemble. The band shredded Roy Ayers’ “Everybody Loves The Sunshine,” which underpins Blige’s “My Life,” and the Mary Jane Girls’ “All Night Long,” which lends a bass line to Blige’s “Mary Jane,” re-introducing instrumental sizzle to what was once the work of savvy record-flipping.” I didn’t realize that was what I was hearing, I couldn’t figure out why these songs were so  shuddering and thunderingly alive.

Mary J, reeling from Trump’s win and a divorce from her husband and manager, could have gone either moribund or angry and she went angry: the sense of betrayal that was always part of her 411 came out not as mourning but a charged up r&b flavored party. Yes, we got lectured some, but not that much by Mary J Oprah redux fashion, instead we got old school live and dangerous takes on some of her greatest material. “Real Love”, “No More Drama”, “Not Gon’ Cry” -songs we forgive Mary for so much of her “I am a woman, I can only talk for the women, to the women. We understand each other. We respect each other. We’re the same” sexist bullshit. Just imagine a man saying it about men. But from an early “Be Happy” and all the way to a Method Man duet (I left after that) on  “I’ll Be There For You/You’re All I Need To Get By” the past was close behind and she delved into it with a passion and clarity that spoke volumes. Yes, she is pitchy, but she is energetic, committed to her vision, and an extremely giving performer. After I left, I went on line to see if she was playing locally again, I was so impressed  I wanted to check her out one more time. Her current single “Thick Of It” is great and now we can all forgive her for the Clinton interview and tip our hats to the second best woman in soul today.

Grade: A-

 

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