R&B legends Maxwell and Mary J. Blige opened the holiday season with their “King and Queens of Hearts Tour” stop at the Richmond Coliseum on Nov. 23.
The arena was filled near capacity with die hard fans of the famed singers. With separate sets, each singer brought their unique qualities to the stage that has made them music luminaries for over twenty years.
After opener Ro James’ 30 min set, the “Queen of Hip-hop Soul” graced the stage at 7:30pm, to a resounding applause from the crowd. Over the course of her 25 year music career, Blige has used her music to reason and cope with her life struggles and triumphs. With a signature sound and visceral lyrics, her fans have been able to follow her through her highs lows.
Her Wednesday night set further added to that narrative.
In the midst of a very public divorce from her longtime husband Kendu Isaacs, her set opened with a short video showing news headlines of the divorce. She then proceeded to perform her 2007 hit, “Just Fine,” assuring her fans that through the drama, she’d get through it.
After, Blige took the old heads back, performing a medley of nostalgic 90’s hits, “You Bring Me Joy,” “Love Is All We Need,” “Real Love,” “Be Happy,” “Mary Dance” and crowd favorite “Love No Limit (remix).”
She then slowed the show down to talk to her fans, sitting near the front row.
“Fellas I love you too, but I am a woman,” Blige said. “I speak to the women!”
For decades, Blige’s music has been a form of therapy for so many women throughout the world, providing a sense of understanding and support in their own experiences. After talking to the crowd for a few minutes, she proceeded to sing “Share My World” from her 1997 album of the same name..
After a brief intermission that highlighted the individuals in her band, Mary reappeared on stage, wearing a signature look, reminiscent of her videos from the “My Life” era of her career.
“Does anybody in here got that ‘My Life album?” Blige said.
Undeniably her magnum opus and best selling album, Mary took time to bring fans back to 1994, singing the “My Life” and “I’m Goin’ Down,” leaving many fans in tears and holding up their copies of the album in their seats. She then segued back into her current divorce.
“As you know, there’s a lot going on right now,” Blige said. “I’m going through some heavy shit.”
She told the crowd her new album, “Strength Of A Woman,” will be out before year’s end and sang the album’s single, “Thick of It,” a song that tackles the divorce. Mary performed more hits, including “No More Drama” and ended with a much lighter and celebratory song, “Family Fair.”
Maxwell followed Mary’s performance at 9:30 p.m. and opened with “Dancewithme.” The smooth R&B crooner from Brooklyn serenaded the hearts of women in the crowd, sporting a three piece suit and clean cut fade. While Maxwell isn’t the free flowing hair wearing enigma fans were introduced to in 1997, he’s still got it.
20 years after his landmark debut, “Urban Hang Suite,” Maxwell returned in this year with his 2009 album “BlackSUMMERS’night.” Known for being somewhat of a recluse, he’s often taken many years off in between albums, making this tour feel momentus. The show’s production matched this sentiment, with a full band, stage platform and large screen above.
The early portion of the show was dedicated to album cuts, performing ““Everwanting: To Want You To Want,” “Bad Habits” and “Love You,” from his 2009 return project, “BLACKSummer’snight.”
Soon after, he went into the ballads that has brought him his cult-like following, performing his cover of “This Woman’s Work.” While performing the song with his signature falsetto, a backdrop of Prince, Muhammad Ali and protestors of the Black Lives Matter movement appeared on the screen.
Prince, who passed away this year, has often been described as Maxwell’s biggest influence and his set proved to be a dedication to him. He then went into a rendition of his song, “Lifetime” which also featured a cover of Prince’s ballad, “Adore,” leaving many in the crowd with tears in their eyes hearts full of purple.
After the Prince dedication, Maxwell proceeded to sing his new single, “Lake By The Ocean”, 1996’s “Til The Cops Come Knockin’” and “Sumthin Sumthin,” with accompanying visuals on the screen.
Performing for about 90 minutes, Maxwell closed out hit set with his 1996 hit, “Ascension,” performing two versions, one paying homage to the DMV’s Go-Go with a live conga band. After the crowd called for an encore, Maxwell returned on stage to close out the night with his 2009 hit, “Pretty Wings,” leaving fans with warm hearts ready for the holidays.
Muktaru is a graduate student working on a Master’s of Teaching after earning an undergraduate degree in English and Political Science. In addition to writing for the CT, he also co-founds his own music and arts site, STROKES N RHYMES. Topic areas Muktaru enjoys covering include music, sports and pop culture.
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