Essence Festival Bets on Itself for 25th Anniversary

This past weekend, Essence Festival celebrated its 25th anniversary, and thinking about how differently it handled the occasion from the way Jazz Fest celebrated its 50th is instructive. Like Jazz Fest, Essence Festival played to its base—African-American women. Two of the three headliners—Mary J. Blige and Frankie Beverly and Maze—are Essence Festival regulars, and Friday’s headliner—Missy Elliott—performed a confused set in 2015 that ended with the power cut on her before she had finished. 

There's More to Essence Festival 2018 Than Janet and Mary J. Blige

The Essence Festival starts this weekend, and it remains one of my favorite festivals in New Orleans. It’s a far less punishing way to see many of the acts that play Jazz Fest’s Congo Square Stage, but as they’re meant to be seen—suave, smooth, and not sweating their way through wardrobes that were never intended for the late afternoon Louisiana sun. 

Mary J. Blige the Spectacle Saturday at Essence

After the spectacle of Beyoncé’s high-tech production last year at Essence Festival, it’s refreshing to have a year where the focus has been clearly on the performers. Neither Prince nor Mary J. Blige relied on technology or choreography for visual stimulus, though both had choreography that they could have done without.

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