The 2010 Essence Music Festival: Entertainment At Its Best
Essence Musical Festival delivered an all star lineup of performances and seminars
By Michele Wilson-Morris [07-12-2010]
The 16th Annual Essence Musical Festival (EMF), which was held at the New Orleans Superdome on July 2nd - 4th promised to be spectacular with an all star lineup of performances and seminars. Hosted by Steve Harvey and Nephew Tommy, it didn't fail to deliver. Essence Magazine recently celebrated its 40th anniversary, and they did it with style and finesse both in print with Essence Magazine and with music and panels at the EMF. The festival was so popular, in fact, that there were no hotels available anywhere near New Orleans. We stayed in Picayune, Mississippi (60 miles away) and drove back and forth to the festival each day.
Sydney and I arrived at the EMF on Friday evening, and unfortunately, missed the first set by Monica, which we heard was fantastic. We did, however, manage to see Raphael Saadiq (Tony! Toni! Toné!), Charlie Wilson, Mary Mary, and the main act of the evening - Janet Jackson. Each act held its own, but the night belonged to Janet Jackson, as she brought the house down with a powerhouse performance, and a new super slim figure along with a maturity and confidence that I'd never previously seen her display.
Saturday evening, Keri Hilson performed and brought out El DeBarge as a surprise, who did an ensemble of performances and finally a duet with Hilson before she sang her final song, "Knock You Down". LL Cool J was next, and was one big ball of gorgeous, muscular energy as he performed one hit after another. He didn't remove his shirt to the disappointment of many women in attendance, but did throw roses to several ladies who were lucky enough to catch them. Gladys Knight and Alicia Keys were the last two performers, but in our opinion, the night belonged to Gladys. She was beautiful and elegant in a red dress and a voice that seems to have only gotten better with time. Pregnant, but full of energy, Alicia Keys was unstoppable - playing keyboards, dancing, and singing one song after another including her signature hits "No One", and "Unthinkable".
Trey Songz began Sunday's lineup and kept the ladies in the house on their feet, screaming and singing along constantly. Jill Scott, Mary J. Blige and Earth, Wind & Fire were the final performers of the evening, and there's just no way to describe their shows except to say that they were all phenomenal. Jill Scott and Mary J. Blige are both flawless performers who connect with the audience in a way that makes you feel like you know them personally. And as for Earth, Wind & Fire, they honed their skills to perfection many years ago and didn't miss a beat. They are truly R&B and Soul royalty at its best.
Sydney and I would not be doing the great city of New Orleans justice if we didn't mention one of the things that it is famous for - good food. In fact, I had one of the best meals of my life there during the EMF at a restaurant near the French Quarter called the "Oceana Grill". The red beans and rice, crab cakes, seafood gumbo, and grilled oysters were delectable. It was worth the drive to New Orleans for this meal alone.
The EMF also featured seminars each day by celebrities like Bill Cosby, Jada Pinkett Smith, Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Bishop TD Jakes, Steve Perry, Reverend Al Sharpton, Dr. Juanita Bynum, Sheryl Lee Ralph, and many others on topics key to the black community. Sunday featured an all star gospel salute to Kirk Franklin, Pastor Shirley Caesar, and Bishop Paul & Pastor Debra Morton.
The Essence Music Festival was a tremendous success. There was such a feeling of togetherness, pride and community that Sydney and I are truly honored to have been able to attend.
Sydney Morris is a co-author of this article.
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