There’s a new piano man in town.
Sitting on stage Monday night at the Greek Theatre in Los Angeles, nine-time Grammy Award winner John Legend proved he not only knows his way around a Baby Grand, but he’s able to deliver soulful sounds without having to prance all over the stage. He’s R&B to a tee. (Well, mostly — he’s got rhythm but his playful performance didn’t show any signs of being blue.)
The L.A. stop is part of the crooner’s “An Evening with John Legend: The All of Me” tour, just one of two Los Angeles concerts he plans to headline this week. During Monday night’s concert Legend performed hits from his fourth studio album, “Love in the Future,” including “All Of Me,” which is not only his highest selling chart single of his career but one that has quickly become a wedding staple.
Simply put, “Love in the Future,” which was nominated for a 2014 Grammy Award for Best R&B album, was celebrated in the here and now. It was a central theme throughout the night, making the concet feel like something of a lovefest where everyone, including Legend, felt the love.
“I’ve been a fan of his for a long time. He sings songs and performs the music that I like to listen to. He’s a storyteller and his personality comes through in his work,” said Laura Lundquist of Orange.
Fellow fan Linda Wang of Glendale agreed.
“He’s a torch singer and I love listening to him,” Wang said.
The singer/songwriter, born John Roger Stephens in 1978, changed his last name to Legend upon the suggestion of rapper/producer Kanye West. That may have been a bit presumptuous, but he did shine like someone who has been in the music industry for a long time, comfortable in the intimate acoustic setting. Backed by guitar, drums, violins, a cello and a bass, Legend lived up to his chosen name on Monday.
In between songs, Legend shared stories about his “overnight success,” laughing about how it’s taken him 10 years to get where he is on the charts.
Legend’s first hit single, “Ordinary People,” earned him Grammy Awards in 2006 for Best R&B Album, Best New Artist and Best Male R&B Vocal Performance. More Grammys followed, and then in early 2012, Legend released one of the hottest singles of his career: “Tonight (Best You’ve Ever Had)” featuring Ludacris.
That song was a clear audience favorite on Monday night.
“Los Angeles, tonight I want to be the best you ever had,” Legend shouted from his seat at the piano. “Lose control.”
Other favorites peformed included “Save Room,” “Again” and his latest single, “You and I (Nobody in the World).” His rendition of the cheating comeuppance in “Maxine” brought several women in the front row to their feet before they started swaying to the music. He told fans that one of his grandmother’s middle names is Maxine and when she heard the song she called him and said how happy she was about it.
“I don’t think she listened to the words,” he told the audience with a grin.
The crowd clearly wanted to hear all his hits, but when he sang Michael Jackson’s “Rock With You” the audience rose to its feet and danced, while his subdued but heartfelt Simon and Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water” left the outdoor venue quiet and pensive.
Toward the end, he called the Monday night concert a giant date night and encourage locals lovers to do it more often.
“Have a date night every once in a while Los Angeles,” he advised. “No promises, but I’m setting you up tonight... My dad used to take my mom to Red Lobster for a date night. Let me tell you the secret of romance — a little John Legend music and all-you-can-eat shrimp.”
Legend will take a brief break from his tour on Wednesday when he shifts gears at the Hollywood Bowl for a tribute to Motown and one of its biggest stars, the late Marvin Gaye. The one-night only performance will feature Legend, the Dap-Kings and the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Legend plans to perform Gaye’s signature “What’s Going On” album, the Motor City star’s homage to America and the civil rights movement, with funk-soul star Sharon Jones.
Fans who can’t attend the concert can also catch the show in real time for free on the Live Nation Channel on Yahoo Screen at 8:05 p.m. The concert will available on Video On Demand for 24 hours.
What’s Going On
What: “What’s Going On,” a salute to Marvin Gaye and Motown, featuring John Legend with Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings with the Los Angeles Philharmonic.
Where: The Hollywood Bowl, 2301 N. Highland Ave., Los Angeles.
When: 8 p.m. Aug. 20.
Information: 323-850-2000, www.hollywoodbowl.com