Back in March, Mary J. Blige named Atlanta as the most fun place to party. “All I need is three days in Atlanta and I got to go home,” she joked.
The star wasn’t kidding though. Over the weekend, she threw the ultimate bash with her inaugural Strength Of A Woman festival, a three-day event dedicated to music, entertainment and community.
From a comedy night at Buckhead Theatre to an array of educational panel discussions at The Gathering Spot ATL to an uplifting gospel brunch at City Winery, Mother’s Day weekend was jam-packed with activities created for women by women.
If you spotted Taraji P. Henson, Kelly Rowland, Naturi Naughton, Tamron Hall or Coco Jones galavanting through the city, thank the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul. She invited many of her friends to the celebration, especially the sold-out concert at State Farm Arena Saturday night.
The lineup included some of Blige’s favorite artists who kept the crowd singing and dancing all night long. And in between sets, Kenny Burns, the host for the evening, made sure there was never a dull moment.
Omerettà The Great kicked off the show, bringing along a few dancers to help her excite the audience. The Atlanta rapper, who sparked a fun online debate earlier this year with her song “Sorry Not Sorry,” dazzled in front of her biggest crowd yet.
Baby Tate came next and exuded confidence as she sauntered across the stage. At one point, she shared the spotlight with her mother, soul singer Dionne Farris. Dressed in matching army fatigues, the two shared their love for one another in front of thousands.
“To be thought of for this festival just feels amazing,” Baby Tate said after her set. “I’m very thankful to Mary for thinking of me and giving me this platform to perform myself and also bring my mom out.”
Queen Naija hit the stage next laced in hot pink from head-to-toe. Her sultry voice filled the stadium as she sang some her most popular tunes, including “Hate Our Love” and “Pack Lite.”
The City Girls followed, showcasing their infectious energy and high glam fashions. They received plenty of help from the crowd who sang the lyrics to songs like “Act Up” and “I’ll Take Yo Man” word-for-word.
Atlanta’s own Xscape yielded some of the loudest cheers with a set that lasted about 30 minutes. The foursome forced concertgoers to their feet with a collection of timeless ‘90s hits like “Just Kickin’ It” and “Who Can I Run To?”
Before they closed, the group showed gratitude to each of their mothers, who joined them on stage as they serenaded them with “Understanding.”
The ladies also showed their appreciation to Blige backstage. “You can’t turn down Mary J.,” Tameka “Tiny” Harris said.
“I’m going to be completely honest,” LaTocha Scott added, “everybody said ‘yes’ [to performing at the festival] before we knew anything.”
When the legendary Chaka Khan graced the stage, the crowd seemed to be in awe. Was it her stunning black, lacy outfit or her impeccable vocals? It was both. She looked phenomenal as she belted out chart-toppers from her 50-year plus career.
“Do You Love What You Feel,” “Tell Me Something Good” and “Ain’t Nobody” kept the fans moving, but “I’m Every Woman” especially fit the theme of the festival perfectly.
Finally, the lady of the night made her way to the stage. Blige approached the mic in all orange and her signature thigh-high boots. She opened with “I Can Love You” and the entire audience became her background singers.
The crowd continued to sing along to bangers from “Real Love” to “The One” to “You Remind Me.” As Blige danced her way through each song, concertgoers gladly hyped her up by chanting, “Go, Mary!”
Just when you might have thought the crowd couldn’t get more excited, the singer brought out Method Man for their collaboration “All I Need.”
And the surprise guests kept coming. Ella Mai popped in for “Boo’d Up” and her new song “DFMU,” and Summer Walker serenaded with an acoustic version of “Unloyal.” Then came Usher and the arena erupted while he sang “Bad Girl.”
With two more outfit changes, a shimmery pink number and glistening purple one-piece, Blige continued to deliver her hits, slowing things down with song like “I’m Goin’ Down” and one of her latest tunes “Good Morning Gorgeous.” She didn’t end the show without picking up the pace again with “Just Fine.”
The party lasted for five hours and the superstar plans to do it all over again in Atlanta next year.
“The festival is only going to be in ATL,” she told the crowd. “I’m going to be here every Mother’s Day.”