John Legend is having one hell of a year. After getting married to Chrissy Teigen, he dropped his fourth, well-received album Love In The Future and managed to enter every single household with the sugary smash hit All Of Me. Now, the R&B star is on the road, accompanied by a string quartet and percussionist, to perform stripped down versions of his tracks.

John Legend knows his brand, his music and his fans. In a huge venue, packed with 17,000 seated fans, he works his way through his hits, straight into your heart. From the moment Legend sets foot on the stage, he’s playing and seducing his audience. Besides the usual hits, P.D.A. (We Just Don’t Care), Safe Room, Ordinary People,1 Legend explains his song writing process as an intro to Again and reminisces about the early days, when he played piano on a little album called The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, sang unrecognizable back-ground vocals on Alicia Keys’ You Don’t Know My Name and reminded me personally of one of the biggest regrets of my life: missing out on a show of the then still relatively unknown Kanye West, John Legend and Miri Ben Ari in Amsterdam.2 One of the highlights of the night is Maxime, where John puts on a show that would make Frank Sinatra jealous. The Michael Jackson cover Rock With You feels awkward, but starts to make more sense when the chorus comes along. It’s a welcome increase of pace on a night filled with ballads.

It’s a shame he doesn’t play a single track of Wake Up!, the underrated album he recorded with The Roots, but the Ohio-born singer makes up for that by performing a handful of songs from his debut, Get Lifted. After a while, the smiles, winks and playful looks start to feel phony. It’s an issue I used to have with Beyoncé’s live shows3 and it demonstrates how hard it is to have a show this big not feel overly rehearsed. Legend saves All Of Me for the encore, a smart but obvious choice. By then, everybody is out of their seats and singing along. If anything, John Legend proves he’s an extremely professional entertainer, who knows what’s expected of him. But sometimes you wish he’d step out of his comfort zone and surprise you more often.

  1. It’s crazy how strong this song is. It’s one of the few modern-day classics: everyone knows the song, almost everyone can sing along to it and it never fails to move you. I guess All Of Me is going to be up there one day, too.
  2. I’m dead serious. This was the greatest show I’ve ever missed. You’ve got Kanye, Legend and Miri Ben Ari (Damon Dash was there, too) in a small venue, on the verge of making it, for less than 15 bucks? At least I paid a little less for the CD.
  3. She completely won me over with her recent albums and accompanying shows.


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