Rarely has a Los Angeles night been so perfect. Every detail, every cadence, every sideways knowing glance. The temperature was perfect, the night sky was uncharacteristically clear – revealing stars I had begun to think didn’t exist behind LA’s light pollution/real pollution. I’ve been a fan…nay, a fanatic of John Legend’s music for over 10 years now. His talent is un-paralleled and his style is soulful and uplifting. There’s something fun about his music. Against the backdrop of the legendary Greek Theatre, this would prove to be a magical night.
Beginning the night was my new favorite RnB beauty, Mapei. This soulful mama has been making waves around the internet with her unconventional love song “Don’t Wait” (the best version is this one: https://soundcloud.com/mapei/dont-wait-remix-mapei-chance, featuring a genius verse by Chance the Rapper). Though heavily produced on the album, this ballad translated beautifully when done live with a band backing her. With brief rap interludes, Mapei flexed her spitfire flow but always maintained a gentle, calming presence.
As soon as she stepped on stage, she was exuding major Erykah Badu vibes—something the industry is very thirsty for right now. Her best moment came during her flawless, pillow-talky cover of Outkast’s “Prototype”. Though I was only standing in line to buy chicken tenders, the power of the moment left me feeling the instant urge to snug up under an arm. With expert skill, Mapei set up the down-to-earth sensuality that would permeate the whole evening.
Mr. Chrissy Teigen brought elegance and class from the very beginning. A string quartet takes the stage alone bathed in rich red light. When John Legend appears at the top of the stage, the man is dapper from top to bottom. The sleek, fitted suit induced libido-fueled wails beyond the human spectrum of hearing. As he took his place behind the regal Steinway grand, purple and red light mixed to perfectly accentuate his spotlight.
For his first trick: the gracefully confident tune “Tonight (Best You Ever Had)” – a lofty statement that he would spend the rest of the night backing up easily. That’s the thing about John Legend – his confidence is overflowing, but it never feels cocky. He’s the new-age Frank Sinatra with a bit more soul. His presence filled the amphitheater. Stripped down and predominantly acoustic, the performance was emotive and captivating. It’s as though the lyrics were inspired by me, written for me and sung directly to me and nobody else at The Greek.
After reminding us of his more humble days working in studios creating magic for some average nobodies such as Lauryn Hill, Alicia Keys and Kanye West, he exploded into that old good-good “Used To Love U”—a favorite of teenage-me, I still knew every single word.
In the dreamiest way possible, John (we’re on a first name basis now) took us through his songwriting process by showing how his slow-burner “Again”—from the initial arpeggios and gibberish lyrics, to the smoldering final product: a sublime detailing of a passion too wrong to continue but too undeniable to end. To the men of the audience, John said, “Nothing is guaranteed but I’m making it real easy for everyone tonight”. I wasn’t even mad.
The setlist of the evening was crafted perfectly. From the playful-slash-kinda-misogynistic hits of the past like “Number One” to soulful love proclamations like “So High”, John touched on all different facets of human love. Though the finale of “All of Me” was beautiful and very special, I think the most poignant moment came when Legend took a moment to acknowledge the tragedy in Ferguson. With a heartfelt, aching rendition of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?”, everybody caught some real-time feels.
The longevity of John Legend is absolutely unquestionable. He is one of our generation’s greatest vocal artists. His songs are equally danceable as they are relatable. His presence feels genuine and grateful, with the charm and humor of a stand-up act. Legend ended his tour at Red Rocks on the 26th (how epic that would have been I cannot even begin to explain), but we’re sure he’ll be back soon. He will be around for a long time.