John Legend, Diana Ross Sparkle at Essence Music Festival: Day 1 Highlights

 John Legend performs onstage at the 2017 Essence Festival Presented By Coca Cola at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on June 30, 2017 in New Orleans.
Erika Goldring/Getty Images

 John Legend performs onstage at the 2017 Essence Festival Presented By Coca Cola at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome on June 30, 2017 in New Orleans.

Every year, the Essence Music Festival draws more than 400,000 people to New Orleans to catch their favorite artists onstage. The lineup always includes the hottest up-and-comers as well as a few of the most renowned veterans across genres, from rap to funk and soul. 

On Friday (June 30), Yuna, Gallant and Doug E. Fresh performed in the SuperLounges upstairs, while India.Arie, John Legend, Rhonda Ross and her mom Diana Ross held down the main stage.

Friday marked the first night of the three-day event and although the crowd seemed a bit light, it was only the first night: There are still two more days for festival attendees to fill the city’s SuperDome and anticipate some of the biggest names in music.

Saturday’s (July 1) main stage will be anchored by Mary J. Blige and Chaka Khan, and on Sunday (July 2), Chance the Rapper will close out the festival.

With a diverse line-up and attendees from across the nation, this year’s Essence Fest should be full of fireworks, a couple days ahead of the Fourth of July.

Check out some of the highlights from Day 1:

John Legend Makes Music the Star

“You know what I like about him? He’s about the music,” one woman says as she bustles to her set before John Legend's set. Her friend responds, “Yeah, I don’t think he can dance though.” The two dissolve into giggles as John Legend, dressed in black, settles in onstage, leading with “Used To Love U.” He bops his upper half to the rhythm, not following any specific choreography, and though the ladies may have a point, Legend has always been about the music first.

His voice never faltered, from his more spirited hits to songs like “Again,” where Legend sat a grand piano onstage and tapped into where it all began for him: the keys.

Kelly Price Gives Her Audience a History Lesson

Songstress Kelly Price stood center stage at the Walmart SuperLounge and started telling a story: “In 1996, I was at Daddy’s House [Studios] and the people around me at the time were telling other people that my voice was great,” she said, pausing, “but I was too fat.” She started walking across the stage. “Well, the devil is a lie,” she said, smiling.

Despite having her body shamed by the people who were supposed to be on her side, Price went on to work on songs with artists like Ronald Isley and R. Kelly. She did a medley of tracks onstage Friday night, just to emphasize that despite the odds, the people recognized the talent and that is what made her a star -- not her dress size.

Diana Ross Brings Throwback Vibes

At approximately 10:50 pm, only 10 minutes after Diana Ross’ scheduled time, a man was feigning impatience, “C’mon,” he said looking at his flip phone. “So I can see this woman and go home...” But in truth, he would’ve been ready to see Miss Ross whenever she came out. He was not going to miss this show.

One minute later, she glided out onstage to a go-go warm-up from her live band that transitioned into “I’m Coming Out.” The crowd was on their feet. “C’mon guys! It’s memory time!,” Ross exclaimed, effortlessly moving through her catalog, touching most of her biggest hits.

From “Touch Me In the Morning“ and “Upside Down” to “It’s My House” and “Stop! In the Name of Love,” her fans in attendance, young and old, danced in the aisles on the floor of the Mercedes Benz SuperDome.


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