Los Angeles Universal Ampitheatre

Hell hath no fury like her...

She is the woman scorned and hell hath no fury like her. That voice! Sultry. Gritty. Fiery. Like a chain-smoking Aretha, those vocals come from somewhere so damn deep, “little Mary J. Blige” (that’s what she calls herself) has to squat down and scoop herself up to bring them out.

She rants. She throws fits. It’s like an exorcism, only it comes from this gorgeous, tiny woman who you know could easily and without breaking one of those very long neon-pink nails, kick high-and-mighty Whitney‘s ass downtown.

Course she wouldn’t ‘cos our Mary is above all things, humble. “Thanks. Y’all, make me feel like a real big star like Barbra Striesand or Whitney Houston,” she says after uproarious cheers leave her chuffed. Dubbed the “Queen of hip-hop soul”, she certainly isn’t standing on any lofty throne. Many of tonight’s most impassioned songs like ‘All That I Can Say’ and ‘The Love I Never Had’ get dedication and thanks, to the writers who penned them, Lauryn Hill, and uber-producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis respectively. And what a dedication they are. Down and dirty, she kindles sexy jams like classic ‘Real Love’ into raging bonfires and you can hear talk of “diva” being whispered.

And there’s some attitude to back it up. On duet ‘Don’t Waste Your Time’, with Aretha, the soul legend’s video vocals are piped in too early and Mary cuts loose, cursing like a sailor to make the crew queue it up and start over. When technical problems prevent it from happening, “Y’all gotta be Aretha for me,” Mary says, and 5,000 voices oblige.

Los AngelesMary faithful may have saved the day, but the crew isn’t getting off that easily. “All you who are thinking about getting into this business, You see this shit, you see how it goes down. [There are] mistakes and people fuck up ‘cos there are assholes that don’t want you to get nowhere,” Mary tells us. It’s a conspiracy then, and since we’re her people the stagehands better get security to walk them to their cars after the show.

And all the bits of ruff in the audience had better look out too ‘cos on ‘Your Child’ Mary rants and rages about loose men and ignites every woman in the audience with thoughts of becoming the militant feminist counterpart to football hooliganism. Lazy jam, ‘Time’ (co-penned by Stevie Wonder) certainly cools everyone down though, and hearing her sing about disgust and exasperation, reminds you she may be a queen, but she’s only human. Her battered heart is poured out, she bears her scars with strife, shows you the wounds in repair, and the open sores that will never heal. She may think of herself as “little Mary,” but to us, she is quite nearly a legend.