John Legend at Cullen Performance Hall, 5/4/14
All Of Me Tour
Cullen Performance Hall, University of Houston
May 4, 2014
"Gentlemen... I can't guarantee that you're gonna get lucky tonight, but I'm certainly setting you up good!" Those were the words of John Stephens, the singer-songwriter and pianist who has, in a relatively short amount of years, earned the right to personify his stage name: Legend. With a genuine smile, handsome but not overbearing good looks, and a litany of hits, John Legend is as true and real (trill) as anyone can be in today's modern music business. Who else plays his instrument with such intensity and mastery? Who else writes his own songs and produces his own arrangements? If we were to make a list, it would be surprisingly short. His talent is unmistakable, and his appeal unmatched.
Which is why it was such an honor to see his performance at Cullen Hall on the University of Houston campus. Every stop on the "All Of Me" tour was hand-selected to be, as my media pass read, "intimate, acoustic, and stripped down". By performing in venues that hold 3000 people or less, Legend makes the show feel more like a family gathering than a concert. Cullen holds about 1,100 in the lower level, and another 500 on the balcony. By the end of the night, we all felt like the most fortunate people in the entire city.
Once the lights were turned down low, a trio of strings played a prelude of what we would hear during the evening. Mr. Legend himself was lit under a single spotlight in the center of the stage, surrounded by his band and four lucky couples who experienced the show up close and personal. "Who do you guys know to have these great seats?" John asked jokingly. He then took his perch on the piano bench and began the night.
I was definitely impressed with the feel and acoustics of Cullen. The setting was indeed nice and intimate, and the sound was crisp and clear, enough to hear the mallets hitting the strings in the piano as Legend tickled the ivories. This added to the natural feeling of the night, one where the volume, lighting, and views all combined into a lovely music experience.
"Its good to see you, Houston! So wonderful to be back here. I know we are gonna have a great time!" said Legend after offering the first couple of songs. His sense of humor was also on display, as he took lyrics from "Tonight (Best You Ever Had)" and rolled with them. "I don't wanna brag... Well maybe I do. Sometimes you just gotta let her know!" Oh John, you rascal!