HOUSTON - Despite the rain and cold, thousands packed the Toyota Center Saturday night for an evening of music from the queen of hip-hop soul, Mary J. Blige, and the king of neo-soul, Maxwell.
Newcomer Ro James opened the show.
Blige hit the stage dressed in a black leather tank top, cargo pants and a black leather cap, which was very reminiscent of her "Real Love" days.
She ripped through her classic hits and then took some time to express her love for Houston -- from the food to the shopping and most of all, the fans. Several times during her performance she thanked the fans for their support and energy, which she said has gotten her through some tough times.
This tour comes smack dab in the middle of a much-publicized divorce from her husband of 13 years, Kendu Isaacs. But never one for pity or lies, Blige addressed the matter head on, saying how hard it was to deal with having her personal business all over the headlines, "some true, some not true."
Blige delivered a soul-stirring "No More Drama" and one could feel her heart's desire to rid her life of all the dark clouds that lingered. "I hate this part of my life," she admitted. But Blige showed her true strength as she said she still felt joy, and encouraged the women of the audience and told them they could make it through any of life's situations. She also spent time telling the "fellas" about love from a woman's perspective. The most telling was when she shared her belief that a man should never compare his woman to another woman and that he should always "respect his queen."
Blige wrapped up her show on an upbeat tone with her dance hit "Family Affair."
Maxwell hit the stage with energy that at times was reminiscent of both James Brown and Prince.
As Maxwell crooned as the women in the audience swooned. Maxwell took the women from his 1996 Urban Hang Suite. Much like Blige, Maxwell thanked the Houston audience, saying this was the best audience stop on the tour. He even joked about wanting to go home with someone so they could make him cornbread.
Maxwell weaved in an out of his hits, including "This Woman's Work," "Sumthin, Sumthin," "Bad Habits," "Lake By The Ocean" and "Pretty Wings." His voice was strong and always in control. His true artistry shined through as he flowed from each song, engaged with the audience and directed his band.
Maxwell graciously thanked the audience for rolling with him for the past 20 years on his musical journey. The most touching moment of the evening came as he introduced his band members. When his got to his bass player, a man who happens to be from Houston, Maxwell surprised him and brought his family out on stage with a cake to help celebrate his birthday.
Maxwell showed much more that his musicianship, his showed his gracious human side, which included being thankful to perform and do what he loves for the past 20 years.
The King And Queen of Hearts Tour wraps up in Chicago on Dec. 14.