Mary J. Blige was a picture of happiness Friday night (June 29) at Caesars Atlantic City in New Jersey, where she kicked off the first of four shows at the hotel and casino's Circus Maximus Theater. Before the Yonkers, N.Y., native commanded the stage in front of a packed house, singing more than 20 songs from her catalog, she shared her enthusiasm for performing at the prestigious venue.

"First of all, it's nice for me because I live in New York -- it's just two hours away," Blige told The BoomBox. "Caesars is an amazing hotel; it's fun, there's great shopping, good food, great entertainment everywhere. It's just cool to be here. I've been here before, so they've asked me back again."

See Photos of Mary J. Blige Performing at Caesars Atlantic City


The 41-year-old chanteuse is flexing her vocal chops with the Caesars Atlantic City shows, which continue on July 3 and 4, to prepare herself for a grander forthcoming tour commencing Aug. 14. "These shows are like just little tastes of what's to come, but not exactly, because what's coming is like 'Wow!'" she explained.

Taking the stage around 9:15PM, an exuberant Blige, dressed in an all-black outfit paired with gold accessories and black knee-high boots, moved through a wealth of her classic tracks with the support of a drummer, two guitarists, three backup singers and a keyboardist.

Blue, gold and purple hues from the set lights surrounded the singer as she delivered strong, poignant lyrics from many of her albums. "Enough Cryin'," "Real Love," "Feel Inside" and "Love No Limit" -- where she broke out some old school dance moves -- were performed early on. Blige prefaced "Good Woman Down" by sending the men a bold message. "Fellas, I love ya'll but this is for the ladies," she admitted. "I'ma tell you something, when we fall, we fall hard but we get up with a vengeance. You can't keep a good woman down."

"Why," featured on her latest LP, My Life II... The Journey Continues (Act 1), "Everything," "Mr. Wrong," "I'm Goin' Down" and "Not Gon' Cry" all followed. She even tested true MJB fans when she said, "I'm gonna a cappella and see if you know it," before crooning through her Beyonce-assisted track "Love a Woman," which hasn't officially been released. The audience sang right along with her, pleasing Blige to no end. "I will have that ready for you next time."

"No More Drama" also came with a memorable note from the songstress. "Every time we say we're not gonna go through any more drama, the enemy is lurking over your shoulder," Blige stated. "You just gotta keep saying, 'No more.'"

Blige, who's currently working on a new film, "Parallel Lives," thrilled for close to two hours onstage, earning a rose from a fan, satisfying concertgoers with songs of heartbreak and empowerment and keeping people on their feet while there was a storm brewing outside.

Before closing out her set with the positivity-laced "Just Fine" and an encore that featured "25/8," she expressed gratitude for support she's received from fans despite unrelenting negative press surrounding her Burger King commercial and FFAWN charity.

"Thank you to each and every one of you who has stuck by me," the What's the 411? creator declared. "Through the bad press and the hell that I've been through this year, through all of the drama."