Albuquerque

Welcome to Mary’s world.

The queen of hip-hop soul, Mary J. Blige, poured her heart out to hundreds of fans at the Journal Pavilion Friday night.

After more than a decade of creating music inspired from personal events, Mary proved she has what it takes to share her music live.

Wild winds swept the outdoor concert stage as fans gathered to take their seats. With just minutes before Mary made her debut, the gray clouds parted and a gentle warmth embraced the crowd.

Up-close and personal, Mary graciously thanked Albuquerque for its warm welcome. “You and me, we have a special connection,” Mary told the crowd. “Without you, I wouldn’t be here. Thank you for buying my records and listening to my songs.”

The intimate setting allowed the soulful singer time between songs to discuss the trials and tribulations of friendship, relationships and family.

Besides being swept away by the wide range of Mary’s vocal ability, it’s obvious fans feel they can connect with the stories told through her music.

For almost two hours, the spirited singer performed an endless array of hits from her four chart-topping albums, including “What’s The 411?,” “My Life,” “Mary,” and “Share My World.”

Fans, both young and old, delighted in Mary’s mixture of old-school music and new-hit songs. Slower ballads, such as “Love Is All We Need” and “I Can Love You,” kept everyone satisfied.

A standing sea of smiling faces followed every move made by the singer. She grooved to the beat, with a circle of back-up dancers shaking things up around her.

Family and friends took pleasure from one song to the next at the singer’s personal party. “There was a time when I didn’t want to be here. You guys really helped me pull though,” Mary said, staring out across the crowd. “Look at everything around us. This is our time to celebrate life.”

Fans swayed back and forth, dancing and singing the words to songs such as “You Remind Me,” “I’m Goin’ Down” and “Be Happy.”

They screamed with delight when Mary hit the stage to perform fan favorites from “No More Drama,” the queen of R & B’s newest of five studio albums.

True Mary-listeners sang along with the VH1 diva for the slow jam “No More Drama,” set to music from the soap opera “The Young and the Restless.” Another highlight came when concertgoers really let loose and the show became a dance party with “Family Affair,” Mary’s feel-good anthem.

The crowd called out to their new friend, “We want more.” After leaving the stage for only a moment, Mary returned with an encore performance minus one key player — Ja Rule. A video clip of the rapper was displayed behind Mary as she belted out their current duet, “Rainy Dayz.”

Watching Mary J. Blige is a blissful encounter. Standing in front of Mary and hearing her sing, one word comes to mind — peaceful.

It’s amazing how one person can captivate a crowd. Mary J. Blige has been around long enough to secure a loyal following. From teenagers to 20-something’s and their parents, Mary has arrived. With bright lights illuminating this royal figure, one can truly call Mary J. Blige a “queen.”

She is one-of-a-kind. She is stylish. She is strong. She is an inspiration to millions.

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Jennifer Harmon