Blues and Soul Music Magazine

Issue 1099

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Mary J. Blige, DâAngelo + more: Liberation Tour - Chastain Park Amphitheater, Atlanta 28/8

May J Blige: Liberation Tour - Chastain Park Amphitheater, Atlanta 28/8/12
May J Blige: Liberation Tour - Chastain Park Amphitheater, Atlanta 28/8/12 May J Blige: Liberation Tour - Chastain Park Amphitheater, Atlanta 28/8/12 May J Blige: Liberation Tour - Chastain Park Amphitheater, Atlanta 28/8/12 May J Blige: Liberation Tour - Chastain Park Amphitheater, Atlanta 28/8/12

One advantage that comes with listening to great recorded R&B and soul music is being able to feel the same emotions uttered through every lyric and note, but to see the artists live and feel their exact same spirits⦠now, thatâs a totally different story!

The Liberation Tour -- headlined by Grammy Award-winning performers Mary J. Blige and DâAngelo â was beyond confirmation when the show came to Atlantaâs Chastain Park Amphitheater on Tues., Aug. 28, 2012. Boy, what a magnificent evening of overwhelming ingenuity and positive energy this was!! Preceded on the outdoor stage by Starshell -- Bligeâs latest signee to her Matriarch imprint who is also on tour with Jennifer Lopez -- and songstress Melanie Fiona, who herself gave a solid set, Atlantaâs installment of the tour was a rare moment in which the performers undeniably found their groove. Not only did the audience praise the talent but was exceptionally interactive and encouraged to rival the performers themselves. Thatâs how you perform!

DâAngelo, whoâs been rather reclusive (or should I say enigmatic?) since his epic 2000 LP-meets-jam sessions, Voodoo, reincarnated the very musical identity that made him one of the most respected musicians of his generation. Yes, the multi-instrumentalist â regardless of some recent ill reviews of his other Stateside dates â still knows and has what it takes to stimulate and electrify his audience. First off, he makes a grand entrance â roughly five-foot-six inches, slightly stout, dressed in all black, sunglasses, a fedora with a flipped brim but minus his signature cornrows -- from the ascending audience. Retreating for the bulk of his two-hour set behind a gaudy axe resembling Bootsy Collinsâ âStarchild,â he serves up a sticky musical tour-de-force: some tasty, finger lickinâ funk grooves with operatic-like background vocals from the Parliament-Funkadelic canon with âLeft & Right,â an A-Train jazzed up rendition of âBrown Sugarâ and rightfully so âChicken Grease.â Unexpectedly comes a mellow, distorted version of âS**t Damn Motherf***erâ with a Hendrix-like guitar solo thrown into the mix. He throws in two new tracks: one being the rousing piano-driven, finger snapping âSugar Daddy.â

As a bandleader, James Brown immediately comes to mind as the musician stops and drops on the one on quite a few occasions. In other respects, DâAngeloâs rich falsetto vocals, seductive voice and gospeldelic wails are still other axes and his coexisting homage to his melodic forefathers (particularly Al Green, Smokey Robinson, Curtis Mayfield and Marvin Gaye). Still, it doesnât take a genius to detect DâAngeloâs strong admiration for Prince in his repertoire, too: commanding the audience to propel their handsâ¦the deep purple lighting (Iâm thinkinâ the Sign âOâ the Times-era configures here nicely). Even when he sits at slightly higher elevation at the electric piano, not only does DâAngelo â with no band accompaniment -- delicately caress the keys for âCruisinââ and âUntitled (How Does It Feel?)â â euphoria from the women in the audience, of course â but his vocal prowess really bleeds across both the stage and the audience. Distance does make the heart grow fonder âcause DâAngelo still got the juice!

Mary J. Blige, on the other hand, was met with great anticipation; her name was chanted similar to some arena rock music goddess. That was quite overwhelming in itself. âThe Queen of Hip Hop Soulâsâ not quite two-hour set had this miraculous emotional transition from the start â opening with the audio from her memorable 60 Minutes interview with famed journalist Ed Bradley backed by the sound of a throbbing heartbeat. The singer and fashion icon â robed in a scorching scarlet red hot pants jumpsuit and black knee high-heeled boots while rockinâ a blond bouffant â exploded onto the scene with a cover of Rufus & Chaka Khanâs âAinât Nobody.â Obviously in good spirits and surfing on an ebb of positive tidal waves, Blige freely belts out and breezes through the uptempo âFamily Affair,â âEnough Cryinâ,â âReal Love,â a remixed âLove No Limitâ and another cover of the Gap Bandâs âOutstanding.â

What made Bligeâs set so appealing was her innate ability to not only inspire but to motivate: engaging in general conversations with the audience. If the colors in the backdrop â lavender for the bulk of the show before transitioning to a lot of warmer hues â and Bligeâs vibrant dancing didnât prove to further illustrate and emphasize her emotional and spiritual growth, what other evidence could establish such a belief? Even in mid-performance, she switches from the fire red to a sleek black gownâ¦and barefoot. The singer was clearly in a very comfortable and relaxed mood: speaking on the issues of good relationships, self-love, empowerment and inner beauty. Considering her fans and listeners have always been able to identify with her pain, suffering, personal struggles and heartbreak on record, Blige proclaims to the crowd that sheâs representinâ for the ladies: performing âGood Woman Down,â âDonât Mind,â âEverything,â âNot Gonâ Cry,â âMr. Wrong,â âIâm Goinâ Downâ (the audienceâs choral arrangements drown her completely out), âFeel Insideâ and âMy Life.â It was just too bad that Bligeâs set ran over â her mic and set designs were both shut off â but nonetheless a memorable moment where her â as well as DâAngeloâs -- emotional state couldnât have been better.

Photos: Erin Kyle
Words Christopher Daniel

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