While the Essence Music Festival was three months ago, it’s still fresh in my mind. I spent three nights seeing some incredible performances while eating good food and enjoying the company of my sister and sista girlfriend (this is what I call my friends who I’m really close to).
For those not in the know, the Essence Music Festival is a three-day extravaganza in New Orleans. Started in celebration of Essence magazine turning 25 in 1995, the festival was intended to be a one-time event.
Sixteen years later, it’s still going strong as the largest event celebrating black culture and music in the United States, according to Wikipedia.com.
I’ve been to Essence only once before – in 1998 – and I only stayed for one day. I didn’t get to experience any concerts, celebrity sightings or seminars.
Over the years, my sister and I have talked about going. Year after year, we would think about checking it out, but never made any plans to do so. This year, we committed to attending, and I’m so happy we did. Over the course of three days, we ate, shopped, listened to great speakers at various seminars, and saw celebrity after celebrity.
But the best aspect of the trip was the three-days of concerts. We attended every night and danced until we couldn’t dance anymore. Besides artists performing on the main stage, there were singers in the “super lounges.” Some of the best performances were in the lounges.
Following are some highlights of a fraction of the artists we had the pleasure of seeing.
Monica: Although we came in towards the end of her set, I was happy we were able to catch the last few songs. Monica has always had a powerful voice, and it came across well in such a large venue. Her tribute to Whitney Houston was memorable and sad at the same time. It’s unfortunate Whitney can’t even sing her own material well anymore.
Raphael Saadiq: I know he’s had his solo career for awhile now, but to me he will always be a member of Tony!, Toni!, Tonè!. He performed a variety of his own stuff mixed with his former groups (he was in the short-lived group Lucy Pearl as well), which made for one heck of a performance!
Mary Mary: This gospel duo has pipes that will blow a lot of todays so-called pop stars out the water. I’m not much into gospel music, but their song Yesterday always takes me to a higher place when I hear it. I would love to see them again.
Janet Jackson: One expects a high-caliber performance from Janet, and the crowd was not dissatisfied. We rarely sat down (I don’t think I did ever), while she performed Pleasure Principle, You Want This, Come Back to Me, Let’s Wait Awhile, Black Cat, Nasty, Rhythm Nation, Escapade, Love Will Never Do Without You, I Get So Lonely, and the list just goes on. The best part was when she called the unsuspecting male from the audience during Discipline. Let’s just say I’m sure he’s still thinking about Janet right now!
LL Cool J: The ladies definitely loved Cool J as soon as he uttered the first verse of Phenomenon. Those lips! Those biceps! That body! It was enough to have women going out of their minds. Oh, his performance was rockin! It’s unfortunate his set was cut short, but he did my favorite – I’m Bad!
Joe: Relegated to a super lounge, he should have been on the main stage instead of Trey Songz (who, incidentally I purposely missed seeing. Watching him perform live once was enough for me). Back to Joe’s performance – trying to see his show was a nightmare! I almost gave up, but decided I couldn’t miss seeing him sing at least one song. I was able to hear All the Things (Your Man Won’t Do) and Good Girls. Hopefully he’s coming here soon because what I saw left me wanting much more.
Alicia Keys: Disclaimer, I saw Alicia perform in April, so I knew what to expect. Still, I sang and danced like it was my first time experiencing her performance. There were slight changes because of the time constraints, but Alicia still sang all her hits and songs from her latest release The Element of Freedom.
Jill Scott: Another disclaimer, I saw Jill perform in June (see previous blog), but I love, love, LOVE watching Jill perform live. Anytime she comes to town, I’m there because each show is always different. She’s an artist who doesn’t always stick with the album version of her songs – and she need not to. With the voice she has, the crowd will always walk away pleased. Besides Jill’s voice, the best part of her show was the silhouette dancers. They were working it out.
Mary J. Blige: My last disclaimer, I’m going to see Mary on Oct. 23 (look for a blog about upcoming concerts in a few days). One would think that since I already saw Mary I would forgo the opportunity to see her again. NOT! I have been waiting – since Mary’s album Stronger With Each Tear dropped in December of 2009 – for this tour. Her New Orleans performance was just the warm up for me. The most exciting moment was when rapper T.I. appeared for his part on the song Good Love. The crowd went nuts. I can’t wait to see how she incorporates his part into her show this go round.
Earth, Wind & Fire: Closing out this year’s festival, the band’s performance was what you would expect from a group that’s been in the music business going on 40 years. EWF had the audience dancing in the aisle, and those with floor seats started the Electric Slide. I’ve never seen that many people doing the same dance at the same time.