Stellar vocals while simultaneously slaying the choreography
Regarded as the Queen of R&B as well as the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul, Mary J. Blige brought her Good Morning Gorgeous Tour to Newark and did not disappoint! MJB tapped Queen Naija and Ella Mai, who could easily headline a tour of her own, as her opening acts. Famous radio DJ, Funkmaster Flex (107.5 WBLS, Hot 97.7), got the crowd going with solid sets in between acts. Needless to say, from the moment you entered Prudential Center, you knew this was going to be a big night.
Queen Naija, who recently garnered her fourth Billboard R&B #1 hit with “Hate Our Love,” opens the show with the new single to audience cheers. Backed by four female dancers and wearing a tight black leather number, Naija has the time of her life on stage. Naija effortlessly transitions from “What’s My Name” to “One Time” to “Butterflies Pt. 2,” which she describes as her favorite song. Naija follows this up with fan favorites “Karma” and “Medicine” before closing out her set with “Lie To Me.”
Next up, Grammy award-winning Ella Mai, who cites MJB as one of her idols and all-time favorite musicians. Mai’s set kicks off with a backdrop of video footage featuring her and MJB working together in the studio. Entering on a stair platform wearing an oversized jacket, matching jumpsuit, and knee-high leather boots, the first half of the set features new songs from Mai’s sophomore album, Heart on My Sleeve. Ella Mai kicks off with “Not Another Love Song,” followed by “Feel Like” and then “Leave You Alone.” Next, nearly everyone rises from their seats when Mai performs her 2018 breakthrough single, “Boo’d Up,” which is nothing short of perfection. The fans go wild again during “Trip.” Both “Boo’d Up” and “Trip” hit #1 on all three of Billboard’s R&B charts, an impressive feat. Mai closes out her set with “DFMU” to thunderous applause.
For the next half hour, Funkmaster Flex gets the party going as he interchanges between old-school R&B hits and current Hip-Hop hits. With each mix, the arena starts to feel like a club. Suddenly, the lights lower, a backdrop of defining moments in Mary J. Blige’s career begins to play, followed by pyro effects, horns, and an iconic entrance from MJB performing “Amazing.” MJB takes no breaks as she effortlessly transitions from “On Top” to “You Remind Me” to “Changes I’ve Been Going Through.” The backdrop is ever-changing, the effects are non-stop, and energy from the crowd is infectious. Then, all 20,000 concertgoers seemingly sing in unison to the 90’s staple, “Real Love.”
It is impossible to not be impressed with MJB as she displays stellar vocals while simultaneously slaying the choreography. Moreover, the queen rarely breaks in between tracks during her whopping 32-track setlist. At 51, MJB proves age ain’t nothing but a number, especially during tracks like “Reminisce,” where she pulls out a high jumping kick.
While the collective crowd seems slightly unfamiliar with the new material, it doesn’t deter MJB from giving her all during every single song. One of the highlights is the emotionally-filled “Not Gon’ Cry,” during which the crowd and MJB unite, singing their hearts out, or rather releasing heartbreak (myself included). The same cathartic energy continues during “I’m Going Down.” The vibe changes when a curtain screen comes down, projecting breathtaking images during “Everything” and subsequent numbers.
The climax, if there is one in such a powerhouse show, is towards the end, particularly beginning with “Enough Cryin’,” which is smoothly mixed into “The One.” The crowd goes wild during “I Can Love You,” during which MJB gives love to friend and Alpine resident Lil Kim. On a side note, MJB currently resides in Cresskill after finally selling her Saddle River mega-mansion. There is a lot of music money in Bergen County, it seems.
MJB then makes her way into her biggest Billboard hit, “Family Affair,” followed by the uplifting “Just Fine.” Just when fans think the show is over, MJB closes out with the appropriate “MJB da MVP,” which is met with confetti shooting up throughout the arena. Although everyone came to see the queen Mary J. Blige, witnessing such strong support for Queen Naija and Ella Mai alike solidifies R&B will always be a part of the culture, especially in the city of Newark.