BEAVER CREEK — On Monday night, John’s Legend’s All of Me Tour hit the Vilar Performing Arts Center — and, in the end, all of the audience members wanted more. The theater’s exacting acoustics and ambiance only added to the exceptional evening. The architects must have had Legend in mind when they designed the venue. It was as though the audience was sitting in the singer’s living room, watching a good friend entertain.
As it happens, at one time Legend worked a club called The Living Room, on the Lower East Side of New York City. “I performed at 5:30 pm. on a Friday. There were five people in the bar,” Legend, recalled with a laugh. “I did two or three songs. Now, this is the real deal!”
AN INTIMATE SHOW
And what a deal the sold-out crowd received. Legend’s tour, promoted as “intimate, acoustic and stripped down,” was just that. With only a string quartet and an occasional accompaniment of guitar, Legend was in his element — just a man and his piano, caressing the keys and singing as though alone. And through the entire 90 minutes, the audience was mesmerized. Except for the whistles and shouts between songs, you could hear a pin drop — the audience was that enraptured with the artist’s performance.
It was the way he communicated so easily and personally with the crowd that made Legend so appealing. He spoke about settling in Manhattan, after graduating from the University of Pennsylvania and working as a management consultant while honing his music.
Eventually, he said, he got the opportunity to meet with the legendary record promoter and music industry executive Clive Davis, who told him that he needed to work on his songs. “I kept getting turned down, time and again,” Legend admitted, “until I met Kanye West who signed me to his G.O.O.D. label.”
Throughout the evening, Legend delivered a variety of songs — mostly about love — from his major albums. His passion and prowess at the piano always present. The audience was totally enamored and, at Legend’s request, sometimes became his back-up singers.
Legend easily worked the crowd and even shared stories about his songwriting process. The bossa-nova piece “Maxine” was called “Maxine” simply, he said, because he needed a two-syllable name and it fit. He even shared his creation process. While most songwriters initially write lyrics, Legend revealed that he “hears” the melody first and that the lyrics follow.
“I wrote ‘Again’, while waiting to go into a session,” he said. “I sat down at the piano, and as the melody came to me, I just scatted, sang gibberish.” (At this point, to the audiences delight, Legend began to scat.) “Then it took me about five more hours to complete the song after I heard the melody. That’s how it is with most of the songs that I write.”
PLAYING SOME CLASSICS
Legend played Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark,” and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” But it was his songs, his love songs — and there were many — that the audience came for, and Legend didn’t disappoint.
“All of me loves all of you,” sang Legend as the concert came to an end. A night the audience wished would go on and on and on. “We love you, John,” they shouted. “Don’t leave.” But, as some lovers do, he left.
With Legend’s concert, the Vilar’s successful winter season ended on an extremely high note. It’s doubtful that the intimacy of Legend’s concert, complemented by the atmosphere of this jewel of a theater, can be matched.
The evening was that special.