I can’t help but wonder what it’s like to go from playing to the Hollywood elite at the Oscars to a bunch of rowdy Brummies at the 02 Academy in Birmingham? My guess is that the latter is more enjoyable. There’s no question that John Legend is a music heavy-weight. He’s a platinum selling artist, weighed down with celebrity friends and a six time Grammy award winner. It’s no wonder the gig was a sell out, he could probably have packed out the NEC, but the choice of venue was a definite bonus for his fans who got to see the soul star in a more intimate location.
Legend’s support act Laura Izibor was the sassiest and best support act I have ever seen.
I can’t think of the last time I saw a support that even warranted a mention but Laura captivated the crowd within seconds of her appearance with her powerful and absorbing voice. The stunning Irish girl who has previously supported Aretha Franklin and Estelle works with a mix of modern R&B, Jazz and Funk. She is definitely one to watch. Her debut album “Let The Truth Be Told” is to be released sometime next month.
I imagined a relatively reserved occasion with Legend centre stage, sat at his grand piano, suited and booted with a single spotlight picking him out. I was completely off the mark! Sharing the stage with him were three backing singers, a drummer, a guitarist, a saxophonist, a trumpet player, a trombonist and a DJ. Legend came out to massive (and I do mean massive) applause and burst into “Used to Love You” wearing a leather jacket, leather fingerless gloves, shades and black scarf, he had an unsuspected essence of Usher!
The words of the song came right back at him from his fans, for the first verse of the song you couldn’t even hear him singing the response was so loud. The sound is my only criticism of the gig, unless you were bang in the middle of the venue the sound was poor. There was a lot of feedback and on some songs the level of the instruments drowned out John’s vocals. Not that it did anything to lower the excitement levels in the room. The crowd which was made up mostly of men were totally behind every song and loving every minute of the performance.
The set was made up of songs from all three of his albums with highlights being ‘Number 1’, the hugely popular ‘Lets Get Lifted’ the more mellow ‘Satisfaction’ and ‘Green Light’ which featured Andre 3000 on the single. One seriously envied girl was pulled from the front row onto the stage at his request; the poor girl looked like a frightened rabbit as John sang to her while playing with her hair. You could hear sighs of “Lucky B*@%*h” from the girls in the crowd. Live, John Legend plays to his Pop side more than his Soul side. Although the soul is there in his voice and performance this tour is loud and a lot of fun. Well worth a trip into the cold to see.
Used to love u
Let’s get lifted
Where did my baby go?
Turn the lights down low
No other love
Stay with you
I can change
I want you
This time/ Love you love/ Adore/ So high
If you’re out there
Words by Cherry Barrett
Photos by Bianca Barrett