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Issue 1083

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Mary J. Blige: Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, London 16/7/17

Mary J. Blige: Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, London 16/7/17 @bluesandsoul.com
Mary J. Blige: Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, London 16/7/17 @bluesandsoul.com Mary J. Blige: Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, London 16/7/17 @bluesandsoul.com Mary J. Blige: Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, London 16/7/17 @bluesandsoul.com Mary J. Blige: Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, London 16/7/17 @bluesandsoul.com Mary J. Blige: Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, London 16/7/17 @bluesandsoul.com Mary J. Blige: Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, London 16/7/17 @bluesandsoul.com Mary J. Blige: Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, London 16/7/17 @bluesandsoul.com Mary J. Blige: Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, London 16/7/17 @bluesandsoul.com Mary J. Blige: Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, London 16/7/17 @bluesandsoul.com Mary J. Blige: Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, London 16/7/17 @bluesandsoul.com Mary J. Blige: Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, London 16/7/17 @bluesandsoul.com Mary J. Blige: Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, London 16/7/17 @bluesandsoul.com Mary J. Blige: Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, London 16/7/17 @bluesandsoul.com Mary J. Blige: Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, London 16/7/17 @bluesandsoul.com Mary J. Blige: Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, London 16/7/17 @bluesandsoul.com Mary J. Blige: Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, London 16/7/17 @bluesandsoul.com Mary J. Blige: Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, London 16/7/17 @bluesandsoul.com Mary J. Blige: Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, London 16/7/17 @bluesandsoul.com Mary J. Blige: Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, London 16/7/17 @bluesandsoul.com Mary J. Blige: Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, London 16/7/17 @bluesandsoul.com Mary J. Blige: Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, London 16/7/17 @bluesandsoul.com Mary J. Blige: Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, London 16/7/17 @bluesandsoul.com Mary J. Blige: Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, London 16/7/17 @bluesandsoul.com Mary J. Blige: Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, London 16/7/17 @bluesandsoul.com

Mary J. Blige is a force of nature, a groundbreaking artist who demands a large audience wherever she goes.

She had the perfect setting at the Royal Botanical Gardens at Kew, where she performed the last show of the venue's summer series.

It was a very genteel scene, with many concertgoers bringing deckchairs and hoping the weather held out as the superstar took to the stage.

As the performance progressed, however, most of the crowd got to their feet and embraced the energy coming from the US superstar.

Boldly decked out in a bright outfit and large sunglasses, her appearance onstage prompted a huge cheer from the audience.

Blige opened to a lengthy medley of her hits, a reminder of just how long he's been in the music business.

It's incredible to think it's 25 years since "What's The 411?" arrived on the scene like a hurricane, with early hit "Real Love" one of the tracks featuring early in the show.

Her power as an artist comes from her ability to draw on her emotions, and a version of "I'm Going Down" was one of the highlights of her 90-minute set, a raw and emotional track which resonated in the summer night in west London.

She's currently furious with her soon-to-be-ex husband, rallying about his treatment of her before a storming version of "Set Me Free".
"A man should only have one Queen," she told the audience, an observation which drew cheers.

Her separation and claims of infidelity by her partner prompted the most recent album, and it's clearly on her mind as she wears her heart on her sleeve.

Blige's latest record, "Strength Of A Woman", demonstrates exactly that, with the 46-year-old (she doesn't look anywhere near that) showing that the knocks life throws at her will not break her.

It was a show of contrasts - the powerful "My Life" sounded sublime while 2001 hit "Family Affair" is a bona fide party track which took the crowd down memory lane.

As summer nights go, seeing the R'n'B and hip hop legend isn't a bad way to spend it, in stunning surroundings.

PHOTOS: DAVE BURKE
Words Dave Burke

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