Mary J. Blige is no stranger to the main stage at the Essence Music Festival in New Orleans, and Saturday night (July 7), the Queen of Hip-Hop Soul fulfilled her unspoken promise of having attendees shouting in agreement, singing and crying along with her lyrics of pain and perseverance.

Blige graced the stage as a recorded interview played in the background. "I just wanted to be a messenger," she said. "I learned I'm stronger than I thought I was, inside and out."

Stomping across the stage in knee-high stiletto boots, MJB belted out the biggest hits of her 20-year career, from "You Bring Me Joy" to "I Can Love You." She did her signature B-girl bop to the upbeat tracks and sang heart-aching lyrics of love lost and drama-filled relationships, somehow managing to incorporate her later, "happier" material as well. With one arm swinging back and forth, Mary showed her versatility, rapping the lyrics to a few songs and even doing the Whop at one point.

She moved into a rendition of Charlie Wilson's "Outstanding," paying homage to the legendary singer, who'd just headlined the previous evening's festivities. She only paused to commend the crowd for its participation, declaring, "Energy is off the hook in here -- it's crazy!"

Roland Martin was spotted dancing in the audience, as was the mayor of New Orleans, Mitch Landrieu. The R&B superstar continued her tear, running through crowd favorites like "Real Love," "Good Woman Down," and her latest, the Rick Ross-assisted "Why." The crowd teared up with Mary as she stood, eyes shining, and shared her gratitude with fans.

"Thank you so much," she said. "When I did the first My Life, I never thought I would have the opportunity to do a My Life 2. Thank you."

The arena called for her, chanted her name, and Mary gave in, coming back to the stage three different times before finally ending gracefully with "Just Fine" and "Be Without You."

Watch Mary J. Blige Perform "Ain't Nobody" at 2012 Essence Music Festival

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