It’s been a long time since I witnessed a live performance that sent chills down my spine.
When John Legend took to the stage last Saturday at the Arena Of Stars, Resorts World Genting, Genting Highlands, Pahang, the American singer’s voice gave me goosebumps.
The concert, which marked Legend’s third performance in Malaysia, was part of the Asian leg of his world tour to promote his latest album Darkness And Light.
My biggest worry coming in to the show was his fifth studio release – which opened at No. 14 on the Billboard 200 charts, his lowest first-week placement yet – comprises songs most audiences (save his diehard fans of course) are not familiar with.
But it didn’t matter what he sang. The moment the 39-year-old crooner, clad in a shimmery gold jacket, opened the show with I Know Better, off his new album, his vocal ability alone was a tour de force.
Legend’s voice was rich and velvety as he contemplated about fame and the need to stay grounded in the piano-driven ballad. That smokey, soulful quality we often hear in his album recordings was not only more evident, hearing it live, it pierces the heart.
So much so, one of my favourite moments of the concert was a 15-minute segment of just Legend singing, while playing the piano.
I may or may not have cried when Legend performed Beauty And The Beast solo. I held my breath the whole time he gave his magical rendition of the Disney classic. He had a way of making it his own without stripping away the soul of the song.
He followed that with one of his earlier hits, Ordinary People, much to the delight of the crowd. Here, Legend showed off his vocal prowess, colouring the song with intricate runs and ad-libs, especially towards the end of the song, like only he can.
Legend then got up from the piano and delivered a stunning rendition of Sam Smith’s Lay Me Down a capella. A hush fell upon the arena as he serenaded the audience with his soft, whispery falsettos.
Besides his hot vocals, Legend turned up the heat performing sensual numbers like Slow Dance, So High and Overload.
“We get so obsessed with likes, we forget about love. Tonight is about love,” he says before launching into the latter, a track about turning off all that noise technology brings and paying attention to your lover.
Legend proved he was a smooth operator, working the crowd with his slick and sultry dance moves as he sang. And when he announced he wanted a little company on stage, it’s no surprise a big group of fans on the front row jumped up from their seats and screamed.
The suave Legend slowly peeled off his gold jacket, revealing a figure-hugging black shirt, as he sang and grooved with a lucky fan.
The singer took the time to speak to his fans quite a bit throughout the concert. At one point, he even shared a private moment in the delivery room when his wife Chrissy Teigen gave birth to daughter Luna in 2016.
Then the proud father put his spin on Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly, as the song had come on the moment Luna was born.
The nearly two-hour show would not be complete without his international hit All Of Me. The searing love ballad has been played to death on the radio. Legend must’ve sang the song a thousand times by now, yet he came off pure and genuine.
While half of the setlist was made up of tracks from his new album that I wasn’t familiar with, I was no less entertained.
There are some voices one simply has to listen to live. Legend has one of those voices.