Gig review: John Legend, Glasgow

NU-SOUL crooner John Legend is an effortlessly cool customer – perhaps too cool at times. His Hydro audience was primed and ready to be romanced and set opener Made to Love was a sufficiently suave overture but the passion in the performance was distinctly lacking.

John Legends voice is smooth and palatable but the passion in his performance was distinctly lacking. Picture: Getty
John Legends voice is smooth and palatable but the passion in his performance was distinctly lacking. Picture: Getty

John Legend - Glasgow Hydro

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Legend’s voice was smooth and palatable, his stage presence understated but urbane, but there were points where his delivery felt a little mechanical, and longueurs throughout his easy listening set, especially for an audience who appeared to be looking forward to hearing certain key numbers rather than in for the full concert experience.

A slip of the tongue – “it’s good to be black” – helped to break the ice near the start of the date, and Legend yielded a little more with a mildly flirtatious scripted address to the audience to accompany Tonight (Best You Ever Had). He always appeared more comfortable at the piano than prowling the stage, connecting immediately with the old school soul vibe of Hard Times and singing from the soul during Let’s Get Lifted.

His band were well drilled but not uninhibited enough to fully exploit the Latin piano flourishes and hip-swivelling potential of his debut single Used To Love U, though they managed to ramp up the melodrama on I Can Change.

Around the halfway point, Legend changed from street leathers to crooner’s suit, and settled into a sincere solo stint at the piano. New song Please Don’t Go is a simple but beseeching ballad, while the pleasing flow of Ordinary People is still the classiest thing has ever put his name to, cautiously channelling the spirit of Marvin Gaye. Legend later turned in a competent cover of What’s Going On and couldn’t resist a burst of Curtis Mayfield’s Move On Up though both versions were missing that killer touch.

His take on Sam Smith’s Lay Me Down got the audience hot under the collar, but Legend has his own signature song. All Of Me is accomplished but brazenly sentimental and he only boosted the cheese factor with an accompanying clip from his own wedding video. Legend is wise to his audience – he’s the couples’ choice – but he showed off the other more politicised side of his musical personality by ending on the redemptive, Oscar-winning Glory from the Selma soundtrack.

Seen on 30.06.15