There are few places in the United States where multi-time Grammy Award-winning recording artist, actress and living legend Mary J. Blige can perform and not have her songs sung right back to her word-for-word from the crowd. State Farm Arena is now added to that list following her spectacular performance Thursday night during a stop on her ‘Good Morning Gorgeous’ tour.
Often referred to as the “Queen of Hip-Hop Soul,” nothing happened Thursday night to change that assessment. Blige is arguably the most popular Black female singer on Earth, dead or alive. 11,000 fans filled the arena for the show and by this account were treated to Blige at her best. She danced her signature dance, engaged with the fans throughout the show, “ATL, how many of ya’ll are happy tonight?,” and even spoke indirectly about failed relationships and, of course, performed some of her most popular songs.
During her opening set Blige quickly dug into her bags of sure things and sung “You Remind Me” and “Real Love,” a pair of classics off her debut album, What’s the 411? She went on to perform “Be Happy” which subsequently brought the house down. The show still had two more sets and costume changes to go.
Throughout the show Blige performed a number of songs off of her latest album, Good Morning Gorgeous, including the title track and a bouncy track reminiscent of Blige’s earlier work on albums like My Life and Share My World, titled “Falling In Love.”
She changed from her black sequenced Balenciaga outfit to what looked like a gold and white sweatsuit for the second set. Blige looked good and comfortable for another run through some familiar songs. The kind of songs that people come to see their favorite artists perform in concert for. Tried and true hits like “I’m Going Down,” “You Are My Everything,” “Share My World,” and “I Can Love You,” kept the party going. When the music for “Not Gon’ Cry’ came on the cheers from the crowd were deafening. With a crowd that was more than 90% female, that song, a breakup classic and the anchor track on the Waiting To Exhale soundtrack, was sure to elicit emotional reactions. And it did.
Following a performance of “Just Fine” during the tail end of the third and final set of the evening Blige said to the crowd, “Thank you ATL, thank you so much Atlanta for always being there when I need you the most, for never giving up on me, for always giving me the best energy all the time. I’m here, I’m going to keep working, I’m going to keep striving and I’m never going to shortchange you.”
No truer words were said on that night. She closed the show with “MJB Da MVP.” Rapper 50 Cent wasn’t on stage to help sing the hook of the song, but he didn’t have to be because the crowd did.
Popular R&B artists Ella Mai and Queen Naija, Blige’s tour mates, opened the show with sets of their own. Queen Naija got things started with the arena still half-full while the late-arriving crowd pored into the arena. Following seven of her more familiar songs, Queen Naija said, “I know ya’ll ready for Ella Mai and ya’ll ready for Mary, but can I do one more song?” The crowd’s enthusiastic approval lead Queen Naija to sing “Butterflies,” which she said was her “favorite song.”
Ella Mai had a nine-song set that lasted just over 25 minutes. “Five years ago I released a single that changed my life,” she said and for the first time during the concert all the fans were engaged and on their feet. The song? Boo’d Up off course.
She closed her set with “DFMU” from her 2022 album Heart On My Sleeve. By the time she walked off stage with her two dancers the crowd was ready for Blige. Though a superstar in her own right, Ella Mai is also a perfect appetizer before the main course.
The tour will move on to shows in Houston and Forth Worth this weekend before playing in Ontario, Canada, Oakland, Las Vegas, Inglewood, California, St. Louis, New Orleans and Memphis. If any of those tour dates get a sliver of the show Blige put out in Atlanta they are getting their money’s worth and then some.