Some of the biggest names in soul music hit the stage for this weekend’s Essence Music Festival at the New Orleans Superdome. While Mary J. Blige and D’Angelo added their brand of R&B, some iconic names came out to lift their voices.

The show officially opened Friday (July 6) with legendary vocal group the Pointer Sisters sporting neon flapper dresses. They ran through some of their biggest hits including “I’m So Excited” and “Jump (For My Love).” There were a lot of show-stopping moments during the three-day event from Trey Songz’s scream-inducing set to Aretha Franklin’s historic trip down memory lane.

Later, R&B songstress Keyshia Cole played to a full house, delivering some of her best-known songs, along with tracks from her upcoming album, Woman to Woman.

But much of the Friday buzz centered around the mercurial D’Angelo, who gave his first American concert performance in 12 years. Backed by a powerful 8-piece band, the Virginia native offered a set that steered away from his hits. Instead, he centered on jamming grooves. While the crowd was a bit anxious during lesser-known cuts like “Chicken Grease” and “Playa Playa,” he had the Essence contingent in the palm of his hand when he pulled out a rare Brown Sugar classic “Lady” and the show-stopping 2000 slow jam “Untitled (How Does It Feel).”

Former Gap Band lead singer Charlie Wilson emerged with a show-stealing performance, transforming the Superdome into a backyard family barbecue. The weekend performances included R&B hunks Tank and Tyrese (sans the third TGT member, Genuwine). Headliner Mary J. Blige proved why she is the go-to performer for the extravaganza. And the diva throwdown continued Sunday night as Aretha Franklin and the Iconic Chaka Khan wrapped the festival with classic sounds.  —Keith Murphy, CBS Local


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