To say I was looking forward to this past weekend would be an understatement. I counted down the days. Again. In case you didn’t get the memo and missed my live show review I posted on the ME site of D’Angelo’s July 4th show this year, I’m a fan ( ok, a bit more than a fan. Suffice to say, I like him a lot). When I learned The Liberation Tour with Melanie Fiona and Mary J. Blige would stop in Northern Cali ( a 1 hour flight) and Southern Cali ( my backyard), folks knew I would be there (with fly kicks on, instead of bells).
Decided to go VIP because I wanted to sit close to Melanie, D and the queen MJB, and experience what this sold package would be like, being like Cinderella for the night (well, not quite). E-mailed an itinerary a few days before the Northen Cali show, we were told to be at the venue at 5 PM. After a bumpy start to the night, we got to speak with MJB’s sound engineer who gave us behind the scenes info about what it takes to put together a tour. He made us realize it costs a lot of money and takes an army to set up, play with, make sound good, feed, clothe and beautify artists on a tour like this. Have so much respect for those “behind the curtain”, making things look seamless.
Beginning the show an hour earlier, I took my seat, front row and center (freaked when I sat down) and watched Starshell, an artist who is signed to Mary J.’s record label, start the show with a quick set that featured a mini-mashup of classic hip-hop and R&B songs. It was ON. Melanie Fiona performed next, bringing her signature powerful pipes to the stage, playing a funeral bride at times during her 30 min set. Not sure why the show was bumped up an hour, starting at 7 PM suddenly, but some folks in the audience who missed Melanie expressed their disappointment. She’s def worth seeing again.
Next came D’Angelo, who arrived at the stage from the middle of the venue, kissing and hugging ladies along the way, and took his place right in front of me. Blending some rock and 70’s soul show elements in, at times, it felt like a James Brown, Ohio Players, Parliament and Prince show, all wrapped up and flowing through the guitars and piano played throughout the hour long set. A person sitting closeby remarked that D’Angelo made “it feel like a party”. Indeed. He performed songs off his upcoming album and favorites like “Left and Right”, “Chicken Grease” and “Cruisin'”. I got my aerobic workout in and then some.
Getting to meet Mary J. after D’Angelo’s set, the VIP group was told not to make extensive conversation with her (which was offputting) as she needed to get back to getting ready for her show but I did manage to tell her she was our hero in NY back in the day starting with “What’s The 411?”, which made her smile and say “Thanks”. A brief highlight to a great show thus far. Around 9:30 PM, the curtain dropped and MJB began her 90 minute trip through her several hits and albums (prominently doing more newer material compared to previous years’ shows). Highlights included “My Life”, “No More Drama” and “Just Fine”.
Headed back to LA to do it all over again, this time, the show started at 8:15 PM. Around 9:15 PM, D’Angelo started his set from two rows from where I was sitting so of course, I got super close! Rocking out just like the night previous, the “too cool for school” soul-loving sold out LA crowd was on their feet for most of his set. MJB powerfully brought down the house as she did the previous night, during her emotional moments, getting the crowd to sing along during “I’m Goin’Down” and her cover of The Gap Band’s “Outstanding”. Attending almost 8 hours of shows this weekend (am tired but still on a concert high) confirmed my expectation that this was def one of the hottest shows of the year.