By MIKE CHAIKEN
Classy, polished, timeless.
Those are three words that best describe John Legend in concert.
At his Aug. 1 performance at the Mohegan Sun Arena, Legend – who is touring behind his hit album “Love In the Future” and coming off the juggernaut lovers’ track of the summer “All of Me”—harkened back to an earlier day in the history of soul music.
On stage, Legend evoked memories of vocal groups from the 1970s such as the Stylistics, the Whispers, and the Spinners. And with his dapper sex appeal, he kept up the grand tradition of crooners such Marvin Gaye, Teddy Pendergrass, Lou Rawls, and Luther Vandross.
However, rather than being staid and old-fashioned, or coming off as repackaged nostalgia, Legend is still able to be contemporary and of the moment.
Musically, in some ways, Legend is a breath of fresh air in the universe of R&B and its musical brothers and sisters. Rather than the raunch and thrust—and infatuation with technology— of most rappers and his contemporaries such as Jason Derulo or Robin Thicke, Legend is all about romance… one that is gentle and sincere… and he is accompanied by instrumentation that works today, yesterday, and tomorrow.
And Legend’s classic approach has found success with contemporary audiences. As noted, “All of Me,” which provides the title for his current tour, was a monster hit. And the track is THE wedding song of the summer. His follow-up, “You and I,” has gone viral across the web.
On stage, Legend is a personable sort. Rather than putting the focus purely on singing and his piano, and offering up a few token words to the audience, Legend treated the show as a conversation with his fans. He shared the stories about his own life and the stories of his music. We heard about his parents, his grandparents, his loves, his losses, his successes, and his failures. It gave the show an intimacy that belied the arena setting in Uncasville.
Vocally, Legend was in fine form as he easily handled the songs on stage as well as he did in the studio recordings.
Musically, Legend accentuated the intimacy factor of the evening by choosing to be accompanied by a string quartet (aided by a guitarist and drummer) rather than an ensemble of keyboards and honking horns. The string quartet added to the sophistication of Legend’s music.
All in all, Legend’s performance felt like we had slid into the singer’s living room where he offered to serenade us as we shared a special moment with our husband, wife, boyfriend, or girlfriend.
His Aug. 1 performance was rose petals on silk sheets, champagne in crystal flutes, and chocolate bons bons on our pillows.
I give John Legend at the Mohegan Sun Arena four out of four stars.
PHOTOS by MIKE CHAIKEN