Blige empowers women

For the men, Mary J. Blige's Sunday night show at Time Warner Cable Music Pavilion at Walnut Creek felt like being behind enemy lines. Wonder what women say about us when we're not around, guys? That's pretty much what this show was like, except the conversation consisted of thousands of women screaming along with Blige on every word.

Blige's current tour is a fairly epic undertaking, with about 20 backup musicians including a string section. Blige rose up as the band played, resplendent in black leather and shades as the video screen behind her lit up with an explosion.

The show's opening stretch was one long medley of often-truncated versions of current and past hits, all of which drew delirious screams of recognition. But the most enthusiastic cheers were for the middle section, when a curtain dropped to hide the band and Blige sat alone on a spotlighted stool to sing and testify.

The song titles told the story: “Good Woman Down,” “You Gotta Believe,” “Not Gon' Cry,” “Hurt Again,” “No More Drama.” During the latter song, lightning flashed on the video screen.

She did do the occasional happy-in-love song, including “I Found My Everything” (accompanied by wedding pictures on the big screen as Blige sang). And her message was ultimately one of hope, of persevering and believing in yourself.

Still, there's no denying that her rush comes from rage.