Sitting at his gleaming grand piano, accompanied only by the subtle brilliance of four string instrumentalists and a guitarist, John Legend reminded his captive and captivated audience that the NYCB Theatre at Westbury is simply a wonderfully intimate venue.
“We wanted it to feel like my living room,” the 35-year-old crooner told the crowd. “Apparently,” he continued, flashing a devilishly sly smile used several times through the night, “My living room has great lights and amazing sound, too.”
Though it wasn’t the true “theatre in the round” experience, as part of the stationary stage and a small section of seating was sacrificed for a giant backdrop, the setup was nevertheless precisely the way John Legend deserves to be witnessed.
Up close. Personal.
So that when he oozes his nearly-whisper-like seductive “mmhm hmms,” or unleashes his passionately guttural yells, you feel it. In a venue like this, close enough to decipher his facial expressions, the furrowing of his brow, that smile, you feel it the way he wants you to feel it.
Legend was at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury as part of his All Of Me tour, a nod to his current hit single of the same name, and in the show, Legend sprinkled in personal anecdotes and stories about his rise to stardom, that made him as personable as he is talented and handsome. A seasoned performer, he worked the crowd well, mostly from behind his piano, but often standing toward the front of the stage, or perched on a stool, smoothly playing to the catcalls and shouts of “We love you, John!”
Legend ran through a bevy of his standards, more often than not smoothly morphing his mid-tempo pop hits like “Save Room” and “Made To Love” into sexy slow jams.
Telling the backstories behind songs such as “Maxine” nicely complimented his sharing of behind-the-scenes memories of working with peers like Kanye West and Bruce Springsteen. In doing so, Legend gave audience members a look into his personal-life history and his artistic process, instead of appearing like an untouchable superstar.
Legend prefaced what was perhaps his most emotional performance with stories of his early days, playing gospel music in church. The soul-stirring rendition of Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” which followed demonstrated that connection in nearly show-stopping manner.
A crowd-pleasing entertainer for sure, John Legend has the chops, both vocally and musically, to impress on many levels, and did so at the NYCB Theatre at Westbury with an ease and flair that proves him to be one of our era’s finest performers.