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John Legend At The Greek Theatre: Review

Kathy Zerbib |
August 19, 2014 | 1:27 a.m. PDT

Senior Entertainment Editor

John Legend kept his concert simple at the Greek Theatre (Neon Tommy/Kathy Zerbib).
John Legend kept his concert simple at the Greek Theatre (Neon Tommy/Kathy Zerbib).
For a big venue like the Greek Theatre, singer-songwriter John Legend managed to make his Monday night performance an intimate experience for the thousands of adoring fans in attendance. 

Legend - born John Roger Stephens - brought his "All of Me Tour" to Los Angeles. In honor of his ten years as a signed music artist, he took his audience back to the beginning - 2004.

Before he was ready to take the stage, a recording artist named Mapei started the evening. Mapei's sound identifies as pop, Indie and rap. Her songs have an electronic feel and the opening tune she used has a Weeknd-esque vibe.

Mapei incorporated her rapping skills and a two-man band into her act. She started her performance a tad bit rusty, but picked up momentum about halfway through her 30-minute set. She also threw in a few short (seemingly) impromptu dance moves. One of the songs she performed was "Don't Wait," perhaps her most recognizable single. By the end of her show, Mapei had the crowd pumped and ready for John Legend's turn.

After a twenty-minute break, Legend's set began with four people playing classical instruments. The crowd's energy surged as it saw the Grammy-winning artist slowly walk over to the center of his stage, where his Yamaha piano awaited. Dimly lit lights were scattered around the stage and bright white lights centered on him. 

He started with "Made to Love," a classic. Legend told the eager crowd, "Los Angeles, tonight I'll be the best you ever had" and launched into "Tonight (Best You Ever Had)."

Looking at the evening's lineup, which consisted of only Mapei and John Legend, I admit I was nervous for him. He was set to play for approximately two hours, but would him at his piano for two hours be enough to excite his eager fans? Of course, is the answer. Bonus - he sounds the exact same live as he does recorded. 

John Legend's passion for the piano and his eagerness to please his screaming fans made the two hours fly by. John Legend knows how to keep his audience thrilled, rather than make his fans feel like they attended a piano recital. He'd play for thirty seconds, give the audience meaningful glances, and look back down at his piano.

In between songs, he took his fans back ten years. As Legend discussed his origins and his early work (namely his backup vocals), he played samples of his songs on the piano. For instance, he sang a bar off Alicia Keys' 2003 hit "You Don't Know My Name" and followed with "Yeah, that was me, too!" For the fans who are relatively knew to John Legend, he detailed his start - courtesy of Kanye West - and various artists he worked with (Jay-Z, Lauryn Hill, etc). The little snippets repeatedly drew cheers from the audience. Finally, he says, he received a record deal in 2004 and went on tour as Kanye West's "sidekick" on Usher's "Confessions Tour."

From there, the star went into his greatest hits - "Let's Get Lifted," "Used to Love U," "Save the Night" and "Maxine."

He took a few moments to explain his grandmother's middle name is Maxine and she was so excited to hear he used her name in a song. "I guess she didn't listen closely to the lyrics," he laughed. "Maxine," after all, is about him confronting a girlfriend he finds out is cheating on him.

Before launching into "Again," John Legend shows the audience how he makes his songs step-by-step. First, he writes the music. Then, he experiments with tunes. As a joke, he sings gibberish in order to get a feel for what sort of melody he wants with the music. Lastly, he adds lyrics. With that, he broke into "Another Again."

After a quick stage break, he returns to play "Save Room" and "Good Morning." He also does two covers - Michael Jackson's "Rock With You" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Legend then plays "You and I" and "Caught Up." The crowd went wild when he started "Ordinary People." He finished up with "So High" and - naturally - "All of Me."

John Legend refrained from using big stage decorations, multiple singers and other usual concert additions. Even his lineup - only one artist before him - was kept simple. As a result, his "All of Me Tour" was an intimate, endearing performance for the true fans who have been on his musical journey since it started. And, specifically for those who are newer to the fandom, everyone else got a taste of the man who is John Legend.

Reach Senior Entertainment Editor Kathy Zerbib here. Follow her on Twitter here.



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