Flashy pyrotechnics, elaborate choreography and props bolster four hours of solid performances by five R&B/hip-hop heavyweights at the Budweiser Superfest, nearing the end of its 30-city tour.
Backed by a live band and a battalion of shirtless male dancers, and armed with the muscular, raw yet resonant vocals and the streetwise attitude that has snagged her the title “queen of hip-hop-soul,” headliner Mary J Blige had the crowd bouncing immediately to tunes from her three albums, including her latest release, “Share My World” (MCA). Faring best on ballads, she hit full stride during her closer, “Not Gonna Cry” from the “Waiting to Exhale” soundtrack as fireworks burst overheard.
Co-headliners Bone Thugs-N-Harmony dispensed with between-song patter and poured 110% into 60 minutes of their patented rapping in synch — at once rugged, haunting and beautiful — faithfully re-creating the complex harmonies and rapid-fire solo raps of the recorded material onstage. Fans bobbed their heads furiously to songs like the gunfire-riddled “Thug Luv,” and swayed gently and fired up their lighters to the peace-minded radio hit “If I Could Teach the World.” Dancers in grim-reaper garb and a giant chomping skull reflected the life-death imagery of the multiplatinum quartet’s new double album, “The Art Of War” (Ruthless/Relativity). Even as the crowd thinned and the house lights went on, the band members continued to rap their hearts out.
Opening-act highlights included Ginuwine the Bachelor’s perf of his slow-grind smash, “Pony.” Midsong, the R&B heartthrob took of his shirt, jumped in the crowd and let the girls pant and paw, as towels used to wipe his sweat were tossed off the stage to anxious, outstretched hands