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Mary J. Blige 

Wednesday, July 3; UMB Bank Pavilion

You've gotta give it up for Mary J. Blige. Her career, which was already high-profile thanks to hits such as "Real Love," "Be Happy" and "Not Gon' Cry," busted wide open last year with the release of her album No More Drama and its attendant remix disc. But it wasn't for the usual reasons. Mary J. wasn't blessed with drop-dead-gorgeous looks, her voice isn't over-the-top great and, for nearly all of her decade in the public eye, she's been beset with, let's say, issues.

But she's faced down those demons, it seems, and has come to stand for tenacity, self-reliance and a soulfulness that's achieved by maturing and moving beyond the mistakes of the past. Whether a truly happy Mary J. will be as compelling as she has been up to now remains to be seen, but when she's cutting loose with a cathartic performance of No More Drama's killer title track (as she did on this year's Grammy Awards show and, to a lesser extent, on VH1's most recent Divas screamfest), it's impossible to turn away.

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