It’s pretty hard to dislike John Legend. He’s everyone’s musician—smart but soulful, contemporary but somehow vintage, and he writes the kind of music that teenagers can sing along to with their grandparents. Maybe for this very reason, I’ve never had a particular passion for his music. I liked me some “Ordinary People” or a little “Stay With You,” but he was never an object of obsessive LimeWiring.
Let me just say that now, I’ve been listening to a steady John rotation since Friday.
“An Acoustic Evening with John Legend,” held this past Friday, Oct. 1, in Pomona’s Big Bridges auditorium, was by far the best concert I’ve been to since the Paul McCartney show I saw in fifth grade. You know you’ve got something good when it approaches McCartney status. The simplicity of the acoustic setting allowed Legend’s true raw talent to shine through. With only his voice and a piano, he gave an emotive lyrical and melodic clarity to his songs. If it weren’t for the obnoxiously chatty freshman sitting in front of us who persistently ignored my evil eye, I would have been lulled into an adoring stupor by the time the encore came.
Legend sang a few tunes (including the smile-inducing title track) from his new album Wake Up, a covers-only collaboration with The Roots, and even taunted us with the yet-to-be-recorded beauty “Dream.” Most of the songs performed, however, were old hits and fan favorites—the aforementioned “Ordinary People,” “Green Light,” and “Everybody Knows,” among others. For a few of these he urged the all-too-willing crowd to join in with a wink and the I-know-just-how-cute-I-am plea, “I’m up here all by myself! I need your help!”
So we sang the “ala la la la” of “Used to Love U” and belted along with “Green Light,” but mostly we listened and wondered at the small, intent, and utterly real person in front of us. In this age of Auto-Tune and Ke$ha, we forget that some artists are, well, artists. After returning home and YouTubeing the entire set list, I was struck by how much better Legend sounded without all the production and artificial “perfecting” that is necessary for so many other musicians today.
If only he’d serenade me “Good Morning.” For now, iTunes will have to do.