Having hit up so many nightclubs and intimate venues in his roughly yearlong career run, John Legend milked every swoon and cheer Monday night (Oct. 30) at New York's Nokia Theatre.
Having hit up so many nightclubs and intimate venues in his roughly yearlong career run, John Legend milked every swoon and cheer Monday night (Oct. 30) at New York's Nokia Theatre. At show's end, he advised his diverse legion about the "rules of encore" -- he'd retire to his dressing room but if he could hear the crowd loud enough from there, he'd have to come back out. Those were the rules.
Sure enough, when the Ohio-bred crooner/pianist vanished after performing his touching ballad "Ordinary People" and feigning goodbyes, the mob roared and stomped its feet, chanting "We want more." A placating Legend reappeared to perform the key-twinkling "Stay With You" and finally "So High," from his 2005 Grammy-winning debut "Get Lifted." The Kanye West protege thanked his band and New York for jumpstarting his career. And it was clear Legend was a new artist no more.
The scene -- and the excitement -- was noticeably different from over a year ago when a then rookie Legend first graced the stage. This time, he was more assured and hammed-up, less nervous and unadulterated. You could tell he planned this one out (for "Slow Dance," he predictably selected a female member from the crowd to groove with). Now he also had a catalog of classics to sift through, not to mention a loyal following that grasped every lyric and vocal shift (one guy knew the adlibs by heart and the security guard was bopping). It was hard to tell that Legend's sophomore disc "Once Again" had barely spent a week on the shelves.
Backed by a highly talented band, the singer kicked off his set with the gospel-esque "Heaven Only Knows" (from "Once Again") before launching into the equally upbeat "Let's Get Lifted," "Number One" ("Get Lifted") and his latest organ-infused single "Save Room." Throughout the night, he alternated between tracks from "Get Lifted" and "Once Again," switching to the other disc at the most precise moments. When the mood needed uplifting, he decided on "I Can Change" and "P.D.A. (We Don't Care)," and when things needed to be laidback, he offered the slow burners "Show Me" and "Again" (both from album two).
Much of "Once Again" finds Legend spinning nostalgic soul grooves into contemporary tales of love triangles and romantic trysts -- all of which boasted lovely background additions and lush instrumentation. For those who had not already bought the new disc, Legend performed all but two album cuts (one an interlude and the other, a back-from-war cut called "Coming Home"). He insisted that the new album scales back the adulterous spirit of "Get Lifted." And accordingly, he presented a short narrative, prefacing "Each Day Gets Better" with a chat about the fickleness of love, followed by a fusion of "Again" and "Another Again" and "Maxine," a song about spotting his girl with another man.
Opening for Legend was the rather out-of-place rapper Consequence (another Kanye signee) and the soulful Robin Thicke, who started off on the right foot -- seated at a piano in a genuine state. But things got iffy when the blue-eyed singer strutted and stomped about the stage, triggering comparisons to Justin Timberlake, from the moves down to the suit-plus-sneakers get-up. Still, Thicke upped the energy and his whispery falsetto could not be denied as he belted out smooth joints like "I Need You" and "Lost Without You," from his recent sophomore set "The Evolution Of Robin Thicke" (Star Trak/Interscope).
Despite Thicke having been in the game longer, Legend was notably more focused. At one point, he crudely mentioned that "Once Again" was expected to sell about 225,000 copies in its first week, insisting that everyone tell their friends and that he would not be satisfied until it hit 5 million sales. Perhaps the old Legend would have been happy with just the love -- but it seems Kanye has taught him well.
- News