John Legend: voice, piano and story

John Legend: voice, piano and story

It was October 1971 when Pink Floyd chose the amphitheater of the Pompeii ruins to shoot their documentary film “Live at Pompeii” directed by Adrian Maben. The choice gave their psychedelic music a magical and dreamlike atmosphere. The ancient ruins and natural acoustics of the site helped create an extraordinary and once-in-a-lifetime musical experience, connecting the grandeur of the past with the innovation of the present.

And in the same location, under a starry sky, after a long gloomy day, John Legend, aka John Roger Stephens, took the audience on a journey through his career and beyond, touching deep emotional chords with a setlist built between classics of soul, pop and gospel.

We start with “Prelude”, an instrumental introduction. The one with “Save Room,” is the appointment with soulful rhythms and engaging grooves. The song, taken from the album “Once Again”, is a perfect example of Legend's talent for blending soulful melodies with modern arrangements. From the beginning it is clear that the evening includes music, but also the story of the life of John Roger Stephens, who talent, luck and stubbornness transformed into John Legend, winner of 12 Grammy Awards, an Oscar, a Golden Globe Award, a Tony Award and an Emmy Award.

On a giant screen, behind the piano, the translation in images of his childhood and youth stories scrolls. When “Tonight (Best You Ever Had),” a 2012 hit from the “Think Like a Man” movie soundtrack, arrives, the Springfield singer-songwriter demonstrates his vocal versatility and mastery at the piano. Immediately after is the turn of “Take My Hand, Precious Lord” by Thomas A. Dorsey, one of the most iconic spiritual songs of the 20th century, to underline Legend's gospel roots.

The grandson of a Pentecostal Church preacher, John spent a lot of time singing and playing in church. When he was still a child, he moved to Pennsylvania, where he performed in the local church choir. His grandmother played the organ in church and gave him gospel piano lessons on Sundays. One of the most moving moments of the evening is dedicated to her, who passed away very young, at the age of 58, “Bridge Over Troubled Water” by Simon & Garfunkel, the 1970 classic known for its powerful message of support and hope, as well as a tribute to the folk-rock duo. Next comes Stevie Wonder's “Ribbon In The Sky”, a love ballad from 1982, but above all a tribute to one of his musical heroes.

After a short break and a change of clothes, John returns to the stage with a touching a cappella version of “God Only Knows” by the Beach Boys, one of the Californian band's most beloved songs, one of the best pop songs ever written. Bruce Springsteen's gritty “Dancing in the Dark”, a 1984 rock anthem, in a softer, venue-adapted version, makes clear the Springfield singer-songwriter's ability to reinterpret different genres with his own unique touch.

The heart of the concert is a mix of originals and covers that shows the versatility of Legend's talent.

From “Ordinary People”, the 2004 hit single that cemented her fame, to “Wonder Woman”, a more recent 2020 song, it's a swing between moments of reflection and bursts of energy, without ever losing the connection with the public. The cover of Bob Marley's “Redemption Song”, the iconic 1980 song that talks about freedom and resistance, slides over ebony and ivory as a message of hope and social awareness, themes dear to Legend and central to the work of he. With “Glory,” the Oscar-winning song written with Common for the 2014 film “Selma,” music and civic engagement come together, reminding audiences of the importance of fighting for civil rights and justice. .

The American star is a civil rights activist and has supported numerous causes, including criminal justice reform and education. In 2017, you co-founded the “Free America” campaign to end massive incarceration in the United States. At the center of her commitment is her complicated life as a mother who, upon the death of her grandmother, spent a long period of depression, prison and addictions.

The concert ended with the inevitable “All of Me”, the song that consecrated John Legend globally in 2013. His performance, solo on the piano, intimate and powerful, closed the evening with a note of love and gratitude.