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Concert Reviews:
John Legend makes it look smooth and easy at the Fox
 

By GARY GRAFF
@GraffonMusic

» See more SOUND CHECK

DETROIT -- Early during his show Tuesday night, Nov. 12, at the Fox Theatre John Legend asked the near-capacity crowd, "Ain't this what you came for?"

And after an hour and 45 minutes of Legend's smoothly executed soul-pop synthesis, the answer was decidedly affirmative.

Over the course of touring to support his five albums, the Ohio-born singer has never been what you'd call a powerhouse performer, but he's developed a lithe and confident presence that well suits the sophisticated, consciously enlightened flavor of his music. Dressed all in black on Tuesday -- and eventually shedding his leather jacket -- Legend moved around the Fox stage with organic ease, eschewing any slick choreography that would certainly have seemed out of place. He kept the show centered on the music, 26 songs that merited and benefited from the focus.

In fact, the concert's best segment was the four solo performances Legend tucked into the middle of the show, alone at the piano as he sang "Dreams," "Good Morning" and a particularly affecting rendition of Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark" that he played with the Roots on "Late Night With Jimmy Fallon" but was even better without the band. And during "Ordinary People" Legend had his up-close and personal moment with the Fox crowd, strolling into the center aisle for an a capella rendering of the song's closing segment.

The rest of Legend's show -- following a breezy half-hour opening set by Tamar Braxton, whose sister Trina joined her for their version of "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" from the new "Winter Loverland" album -- certainly worked as well. "Made To Love" from his latest album, "Love in the Future," kicked things off with an explosion of red lights and ambient musical drama. Legend then led his four-piece band and two backup singers through a set that spanned his recording career -- though he sadly didn't touch on "Wake Up!," his 2010 collaboration with the Roots -- from the poppy melodicism of "Open Your Eyes," "Save Room" and the Motown-flavored "Number One" to soaring anthems such as "Let's Get Lifted" and "Heaven" and upbeat dance parties like "Green Light" and a cover of Luther Vandross' "Never Too Much."

Legend also scored points with some cheerleading for the Detroit Lions' winning ways, and, of course, he had fans swooning on quieter numbers such as "Tomorrow," "Everybody Knows," "Angel" and particularly "All of Me," which was accompanied by a video of he and his wife, model Chrissy Teigan, which bordered on TMI until it finished with footage of their Sept. 4 wedding in Como, Italy. "Who Do We Think We Are" from "Love in the Future" provided a buoyant close to the night, letting the Fox crowd leave feeling it had gotten exactly what it came for.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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