John Legend brings the lounge to Boston Harbor

A review of John Legend at the Blue Hills Bank Pavilion on August 9, 2014

, Contributing Writer

The seaport was abuzz last Saturday night. Between Boston Comic Con and the beautiful summer weather, the bars and streets were teeming with Bostonians ready to hit the town. Yet just down the street, John Legend was transporting audience members in the packed Blue Hills Bank Pavilion to a tiny lounge, providing an intimidate-feeling experience to be shared by thousands.

The night started out as many concerts do: with the music. Kicking things off with big sound on “Made to Love” off his latest album, 2013’s Love in the Future, into the smoother “Tonight (Best You Ever Had)”, the tone changed as Legend paused to tell his story. Like a reflective singer in a lounge somewhere many years from now, Legend brought the crowd in with the tale of his journey, from pianist on Lauryn Hill’s “Everything is Everything” to getting turned down by a major label to joining Kanye West and signing to GOOD Music to backing Alicia Keys on “You Don’t Know My Name”. But this was no sudden exposition; no, the act was clearly practiced, with little patterns such as cutely ending each namedrop with “That was me too”. However, the rehearsed nature of the entire show didn’t seem to make the audience any less endeared to the performer, allowing the night to go on without any bumps or bruises along the way.

The show revolved around Legend, with the backing musicians rotating in and out of each number depending on what the track called for. From violins to electric guitar, the only pieces that remained fairly consistently were the drums and Legend’s piano. Legend’s vocals soared over all the noise, only seeking support on a cover of Michael Jackson’s “Rock With Me”. The lighting complimented the professionalism of the show, setting the tone for each subsequent composition.

The stories continued, as he detailed the scandal behind “Maxine” and explained how he writes a song with “Again” as an example. As smooth and rehearsed as Legend was, his performance never came off as disingenuous. One moment joking that he was helping everyone having a date night move one step further and the next dedicating a cover of Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” to the grandmother who helped inspire him musically, the singer tapped into all the emotions of the audience like a well-crafted film.

As the night neared a close, Legend put a little more flair into the music, adding several runs onto the end of “Ordinary People” and bumping up the electric guitar for a few epic moments onSo High”, both off his 2004 debut album Get Lifted. After a brief break, he concluded the concert with his smash #1 hit “All Of Me”, leaving viewers pleased despite the rather concise encore.

Overall, there was nothing shocking or extremely improvised about the show. However, Legend’s skills and knowledge of his fanbase allowed him to shine without worrying too much about living in the moment. He is a skilled performer, and Boston will be happy to welcome him back again.

Setlist
1.  Made to Love
2.  Tonight (Best You Ever Had)
3.  Let’s Get Lifted
4.  Used to Love U
5.  Save The Night
6.  Something (Beatles cover)
7.  Maxine
8.  Again
9.  The Beginning
10. Save Room
11. Good Morning
12. Green Light
13. Rock With You (Michael Jackson cover)
14. Who Do We Think We Are
15. Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel cover)
16. You & I (Nobody in the World)
17. Caught Up
18. Ordinary People
19. So High
Encore
20. All Of Me

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