John Legend: 29 January 2014 - McKittrick Hotel, New York (Photos)
Part of the Citi Presents Evenings with Legends shows in the run up to the Super Bowl, the solo piano performance from John Legend for no more than a couple hundred people was a superb event.
Citi Presents Evenings with LegendsCity: New York
Venue: McKittrick Hotel
The front row was seated less than six feet away from John Legend, for a Citi sponsored event dubbed "Evenings with Legends an exclusive lineup of music and sports experiences for Citi cardmembers leading up to football's biggest game of the year". Legend cracked a joked that the series was named after him and though his multitude of awards might make him a legend in his own right, the sports portion of the events (which I did not attend) was where the legends were at. For three nights, Citi is hosting conversations with famed coaches and athletes -- Wed night it was MVP quarterback Eli Manning and Football Commentator Bob Papa also in the McKittrick Hotel, an intimate venue with a retro-feel (a great place to have seen the Preservation Hall Jazz Band, whose music was playing prior to Legend's performance). But I was there for the music after that chat.
When Legend finally took the stage, the crowd was ecstatic. He noted, "I don’t get to play these smaller clubs as much anymore" before listing off a few of the spots where he tried to make it. Now, playing in this tiny venue without any backing band, Legend had complete control and turned in a perfect performance. He went through numerous hits, a few covers and also managed to squeeze in some audience requests in the span of his set (less than 90 minutes). He also shared some stories in between the music, particularly with the covers. For Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark", which he performed with the Roots, he later received a signed letter of appreciation from the Boss. Before his cover of the Beatles' "Here Comes the Sun", Legend informed the audience that he recently recorded it for a televised special to be broadcast soon (and it is something to look forward to).
His story behind his first single, 2004's "Used to Love U" was particularly entertaining because he joked about the limits of singing about being impoverished (akin to Lorde's "Royals"). It turns out, if that single works, you don't get to sing about it again. Following a series of requests, Legend performed one of his biggest hits, "Ordinary People" before leaving the stage. At the audience's insistence, he returned for an encore of "All of Me" from his 2013 album Love in the Future. Unfortunately the night was over, but people would be talking about this show for sure as the man, or should I say the Legend, and his piano commanded the room and held the audience in rapture throughout his fantastic set.