John Legend at The Woodlands, 7/23/2014
Photos by Violeta Alvarez
Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion
July 23, 2014
As the crowd's applause subsided following Wednesday evening's first song, "Made to Love," John Legend leaned down toward the crowd from the his piano bench onstage at the Woodlands Pavilion. He had a coy, even mischievous look about him, as if he was about to divulge a secret.
"Houston," he whispered into the microphone, "I want to be the best you ever had."
Legend then raised a single eyebrow and smirked as the crowd resumed its cheering.
"I don't want to brag," Legend sang, "but tonight, I'll be the best you ever had."
Does it really constitute vanity if it's true?
Wearing a white suit jacket over a black T-shirt and black pants, the Ohio native remained seated for most of his performance. Audience members, meanwhile, rose to their feet in between, and oftentimes during just about every song.
Accompanied by a cello, three violas and an upright bass, the evening was more akin to an evening at the theater than a typical Pavilion concert. Bongos, a drum set, a guitar and a bass made occasional appearances, but the crowd's shared attention was focused on Legend, as his vocals and proficiency on the piano dominating the evening.
"I stripped the show down and made it a lot simpler," Legend said of his performance. "Because I wanted it to be just us...to get back to the beginning."
He supplemented his set list with anecdotes, regaling the crowd with stories of his past and displaying a self-deprecating humor when addressing the trials he faced during his ascent to stardom.
"My dream was always to be exactly where I am right now," Legend said of his move to New York City in 2000. "But sometimes your dreams take a few detours along the way."
His detour was as a management consultant.
"PowerPoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets," he said, adding with a whisper, "It was very sexy work."
"One of my very first gigs was at a place called The Living Room," he said. "There were about five people there, and two of them were bartenders."
While working as a consultant, Legend found himself performing alongside a number of renowned musicians, though the public still had no idea who he was.
He played piano on Lauryn Hill's "Everything is Everything" as well as on Slum Village's "Selfish," and he sang on Jay Z's "Encore" and in the background of Alicia Keys' "You Don't Know My Name." Wednesday evening, he whetted fans' appetites with snippets from each track.
This all happened before he even had a record deal.
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