Sep 2014 26

Mary J Blige roundhouse london itunes festival

With more than 20 years in the game you might be forgiven for thinking that Mary J. Blige’s live shows have calmed down since her high octane days in the 90’s and early 00’s. This of course would be a ridiculous assumption, not only has Blige maintained her energy, she’s gotten even stronger and even more powerful… and lest we not speak of the in-cred-ible shape she’s in.

Taking to the iconic stage at London’s Roundhouse for the iTunes Festival last night, Mary used the first half of her show to remind everybody how it is she’s managed to maintain such a long and successful career – her hits are bewilderingly endless. Covering a substantial amount of ground, she played through her discography and performed fan-favourites like ‘You Remind Me’, ‘Happy’, ‘Real Love’, ‘Family Affair’ and of course the holy-spirit-squat inducing ‘No More Drama’.

But it was clear from the shows introduction that Mary had a bigger agenda than just to indulge in blind nostalgia – she wanted to use her moment to unveil new music from her 13th studio album The London Sessions.

“That was the history of Mary, but this is the evolution…” she testified as she spoke about working with British superstars like Disclosure, Emeli Sande and Sam Smith, just before launching into ‘Therapy’ her latest single lifted from her forthcoming LP. The soul-swing mid-tempo single was clearly written with Blige’s powerhouse voice in mind, she sounded gusty and flawless. Two new ballads followed one of which was penned by recent chart conqueror Sam Smith – none of which unfortunately grabbed my attention. The magic of hit songs ‘Be Without You’ or ‘No More Drama’ is that they not only crossover, but they are also still inextricably Mary J. Blige songs filled with life experience, struggle, and soul. The two aforementioned songs I heard last night lacked those fundamental elements and felt disappointingly inoffensive. The Disclosure produced single ‘Right Now’ and ‘F For You’ however quickly resolved all of that, and restored my excitement for what’s in store for The London Session.

Mary J. Blige is a force of nature, and her voice fitted over the type of house-pop that Disclosure have perfected evidently works wonders; it not only fits musically (and it does), but it also makes sense. Unlike other “divas” that reigned in the 1990’s, Blige is clearly very serious about her career, and still obviously very passionate about music – her willingness therefore to dive headfirst into a new culture, and seek the endorsement from a city currently leading the world in music should not only be applauded but whole heartedly supported.

Get it Mary. The London Sessions is out on November 24th.