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2019 Cincinnati Music Festival Day 2

Source: Stephen J. Cohen / Getty

The Cincinnati Music Festival, Presented by P&G has been a staple in the city’s fabric for decades, but something about this year’s festivities shed new light on this amazing weekend of music, food and kinship.

As a Cincinnati native, I proudly watched from the suite as some of my favorite R&B acts took the stage with moving, powerful performances. It’s hard to choose a favorite stage act when the likes of Maxwell, Earth Wind & Fire, Tamia, Mary J. Blige, Frankie Beverly & Maze, Blackstreet & more are in the mix–but there was one set that shook the hearts and minds of every person at Paul Brown Stadium that evening.

Saturday’s show capped off with Frankie Beverly & Maze, and the crowd of over 37,500 people honored the occasion by dressing in traditional all white. But it was the performance that preceded Maze, Mary J. Blige, that took the crown, with her soul-stirring musical storytelling.

Mary recently split with her husband of 13 years, Kendu Isaacs, in a very public and dramatic divorce. Mary, who has alway used her music as catharsis, did not shy away from expressing the heartache of her divorce in song as she moved the crowd through her catalogue of music.

Mary crooned some of her greatest hits, “Not Gon Cry,” “Real Love,” and brought the entire stadium to church with her jaw-dropping rendition of “No More Drama.” The emotions of the moment were so high, Mary at one point laid on the stage.

But then the 47-year-old came back out, bringing the audience to their dancing feet with her club banger, “Family Affair” and ever-optimistic single “Just Fine.”

Mary truly left it all on the stage, allowing all of her fans to journey through a soundtrack of life–heartache, healing, joy & growth–through her music.

You can see more photos from the festival here:


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