“I feel good tonight, Los Angeles,” declared John Legend at the Greek Theatre on Sunday night. And so did the rapturous audience that greeted him on the first night of his Darkness and Light tour’s two-night L.A. stand (May 28-29).
From the moment Legend emerged onstage — he and his piano seemingly suspended in mid-air within a black oval frame — the Grammy-winning singer-songwriter was greeted with thunderous applause and a standing ovation, a pattern frequently repeated over the next two hours.
Here are five takeaways from Legend’s concert, which also featured opening act Gallant:
Heightened security: In the wake of the Manchester tragedy, security at the theater’s several gates was very thorough — down to asking a patron to open a bottle of Tylenol that was found in her purse. Metal detector wands were also part of the entry process. And throughout the show, policemen routinely walked the theater’s inside perimeter. While neither artist brought up Manchester during their performances, it wasn’t far from people’s consciousness: Two giant video screens promoting upcoming concerts also included the separate image of a black ribbon on-screen positioned above the word Manchester.
Famous guests: Grammy-winning singer/songwriter Bill Withers and Kim Kardashian were spotted in the audience before Legend took the stage. But whereas Withers walked around essentially unnoticed, Kardashian not surprisingly triggered an outbreak of camera cell phones as she made her entrance. Also in the house: Oklahoma City Thunder point guard/MVP candidate Russell Westbrook. There was a fleeting hope by this writer that Legend might reprise his and The Roots’ cover of Withers’ moving “I Can’t Write Left Handed” during the concert. But that moment didn’t come to pass.
Graduation to pop star status: As noted earlier, Legend came onstage to a standing ovation that essentially lasted all evening. He opened with the fitting “I Know Better,” which also opens his latest album Darkness and Light. “They say sing what you know/ But I sang what they want” goes the first verse. And that’s what Legend did. He gave fans a healthy dose of selections from the album, including its title track, “Penthouse Floor,” “Overload,” “Surefire,” “Love Me Now,” “What You Do to Me” and “Right by You [for Luna].”
But he also didn’t stint on past fan favs. Going back to 2004’s “Used to Love U” and moving forward through “Ordinary People,” “Save the Night,” “Like I’m Gonna Lose You,” “Save Room,” “Green Light” and “Who Do We Think We Are,” a sweat-soaked Legend elicited rousing sing-alongs, deafening applause and shout-outs of “I love you” during the whole evening. At one point while performing “Slow Dance,” he invited a female audience member to dance with him. Her sexy, twerking moves prompted the singer to say as she left the stage, “She was gettin’ it tonight.”
Show-stopper surprise: Legend ended the show with “All of Me” and then, to the audience’s surprise, brought out Common to perform the pair’s Oscar- and Grammy-winning song “Glory,” backdropped by video images of civil rights marches in the ’60s with Dr. Martin Luther King and more recently involving #BlackLivesMatters.
A new era of Gallant-ry: Alternative R&B singer/songwriter Gallant held his own as Legend’s opening act, providing ample evidence between his engaging falsetto and body gyrations as to why he’s one of the genre’s rising stars. His 45-minute set had the audience singing and soetimes dancing along to songs from his debut studio album, Ology. Among those selections were “Weight in Gold,” “Percogesic,” “Skipping Stones,” “Bone + Tissue” (which Gallant described as “one of my favorite songs”), “Bourbon” and “Episode.”
Legend’s Darkness and Light tour, which began May 12 in Miami, wraps its two-night stop in Los Angeles Monday (May 29). The tour’s next stops include Vancouver, British Columbia (June 1), the Chateau Ste. Michelle Winery in Woodinville, Washington (June 3-4), St. Louis (June 15), New York City’s Madison Square Garden (June 27-28) and New Orleans at the Essence Festival (June 30).