Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Mary J Blige at the O2 Arena

Last night we went to see Mary J Blige at the O2 and, after seeing her on her last tour I knew to expect my soul to be wrung dry of all emotion and spilled on the stage in front of her in homage. Mary gives good show and, just to be sure we all heard our favourite songs, she sung approximately 273 songs in the 1:40 hours she was on stage, an exhausting repertoire dragging us into her world of pride, self-confidence and righteousness.

She opened with 'MJB da MVP', her own tale of empowerment and then segued into song after song after song, one extended medley of her songs after another while she prowled the stage, never still, walking back and forth, crouching, springing, a wild creature whose mission is to set us free from ourselves and the crowd loved her. She was backed by a powerful band and singers, all on a raised set in the back half of the stage, leaving the front of the stage empty and clean for MJB to prowl. She was joined a couple of times by two hip hop dancing lads but only for a minute or so each time which meant she was, effectively, alone on the front half of the stage for the majority of the time. Such power has she, that I hardly noticed, eyes riveted on the woman commanding this vast arena with her own personality, voice and songs, a very impressive performance. And the time flew by, no sooner had she started than it seemed the show was nearly over with the big songs towards the end of her well constructed set.

She wore a skin-tight navy blue sparkly cat-suit, like a blond Catwoman in razor-sharp sequins as she prowled the stage before changing into a gold sparkly tunic for the second half of the show, that also included a short acoustic set - yes, MJB goes acoustic. There were two minor disappointments, very minor. Firstly, that she let the crowd sing most of 'I'm Going Down' - I want to hear her sing it - and the second was that she didn't sing 'Whole Lotta Love' from the latest album. I love her version of that song and if you're going to sing it anywhere it's in London at the O2 where Led Zep got together their reunion gig a few years back. I'd already imagined the pyrotechnics and light show as she screamed out the words... but not, as the case was.

The highlights for me were the biggies, as you'd expect. 'Not Gon' Cry', the joyous 'Just Fine' and the heart-wrenching 'No More Drama'. How on earth can Mary crouch down on the stage and still manage to jump up from the stage in that position? Is it humanly possible to jump and maintain that position? She's a very fit woman, obviously. And, suddenly, the show was over and the band was playing an outro as hoards of people streamed away to the exits. Feel free to come back any time, MJB.

MJB has a strange demographic going on with her audience - well, I was there for a start. The couple next to me must've been in their mid-50s and they were boogieing on with the best of them (I did my own trademarked shuffle). It was nice to finally meet David whose path we keep crossing but never actually meeting and, finally, we did as we discovered the oddness of the 'Blue Room' (or whatever it's called), an empty bar while the bars in the Arena have huge queues. I'll remember that for the next time.

Of course, as with virtually every trip to the O2 it's a problem getting home. The Tube strike didn't affect trains as far as Waterloo so we could've got the tube but I'd booked a cab, thinking I'd be clever for a change. Of course, the damn thing was 20 minutes late and then took the strangest route across south London, using every narrow, car-lined street the driver could find on the way home. Either I never learn or the O2 is cursed... probably both!

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