John Legend‘s catalog is full of romantic ballads written specifically for his wife, Chrissy Teigen, so it was especially significant for the crowd at Saturday’s opening night of the Hollywood Bowl season to see those songs performed directly to the singer/songwriter’s muse, sitting in the front section of the vaunted venue. And another one of Legend’s muses was in the audience too: His 3-year-old daughter Luna bounced along to the concert on Teigen’s lap and even got up onstage and into her dad’s arms for his upbeat 2008 hit “Green Light.”
It was the perfect family affair on the eve of Father’s Day — and thanks to a handful of Youth Orchestra LA students joining the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, there were some more kids onstage at the show too.
Below, find seven highlights from the concert.
Starting on ‘Higher’ Ground
Legend kicked things off with his spirited chorus from DJ Khaled’s “Higher,” which also features the late rapper Nipsey Hussle. It was a subtle nod to the slain hometown hero, while also setting the tone for the uplifting show, backed by the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra.
‘I Don’t Want to Brag, Los Angeles. Or Maybe I Do…’
After performing his 2012 hit “Tonight (Best You Ever Had),” Legend paraphrased his own boastful lyric, adding, “Sometimes you gotta let her know!” His performance was full of swag, starting with Legend’s electric-blue tuxedo, complete with tails — a fitting ensemble for the full-orchestra set. Early songs like “Penthouse Floor” matched the brazen outfit’s confident energy, with his trio of backup singers in coordinating tulle-skirted gowns in the same bright blue.
Behind the Keys
Legend waited until the eighth song of the night to get behind the piano, taking it back to his 2006 ballad “Again.” He spent much of the remainder of the concert on the piano bench, including an a cappella take on his breakthrough 2004 hit “Ordinary People.” For the stripped-down song, the typically vibrant Bowl stage lights were all dimmed, so the arena was lit by thousands of cell phone screens and the almost-full moon.
Spreading the ‘Love’
Love was the clear theme of the night, from the No. 1 love song “All of Me” — Legend’s biggest-ever hit on the Billboard Hot 100 — to his orchestral cover of Led Zeppelin’s “All of My Love.” And before he performed “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” — Meghan Trainor’s top 10 Hot 100 duet with Legend — he urged the crowd to tell whoever they were with that they loved them. “I love you Luna, I love you Chrissy,” he said to his ladies from the stage.
Eighteen songs seemed like a plenty full set, but he had one more trick up his sleeve. After less than five minutes off the stage, Legend re-emerged in a fire-engine-red tailed tuxedo, matched by his equally fiery backup singers, to perform his Oscar-, Golden Globe- and Grammy-winning song “Glory,” from the 2014 MLK biopic Selma. Of course, he couldn’t perform “Glory” without his duet partner Common, who came bounding onstage in all white to rapturous applause. Images of newspaper headlines about Martin Luther King Jr. projected onto the Bowl shell for the powerful number — a fitting finale for a show that also included the protest messages of Legend’s new song “Preach” and a cover of Martin Gaye’s “What’s Goin’ On?” The encore was punctuated by fireworks bursting above the Bowl.
The Future of Music
Before Legend even hit the stage, the Thomas Wilkins-directed Hollywood Bowl Orchestra performed a full set on their own. Following their first number, 33 members of Youth Orchestra LA joined the professional musicians, sitting side-by-side with them for the rest of the evening for an impressive testament to the future of orchestral music. The opening-night concert raised more than $1.7 million for the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s community and learning programs, which includes YOLA.
John Legend’s Hollywood Bowl set list
Higher (DJ Khaled song)
Tonight (Best You Ever Had)
Love Me Now
Used to Love U
Like I’m Gonna Lose You (Meghan Trainor song)
What’s Goin’ On (Marvin Gaye cover)
God Only Knows (Beach Boys cover)
You & I
All of My Love (Led Zeppelin cover)
All of Me
Move on Up (Curtis Mayfield cover)
Glory (with Common)