An almost packed Rod Laver Arena, people clapping and music blaring but no one had hit the stage as yet. More importantly it was early…something different was in the air, this wasn’t a support act and everyone there knew it.
With drums and screams, John Legend arrived on stage with the power and vocal prowess of Made to Love. Big sounds and impeccable vocals soaring to brilliance were an instant reminder of everything that wowed last time I saw John Legend live and set the tone for the evening ahead.
Tonight (Best You Ever Had) came off with a lot less cheese than other artists might be able to muster in the genre and was topped off with a catchy little funk beat before the bold brass sounds and official greeting and welcome. Everyone willingly obliging to a request to get on their feet for a trip back to the days of Get Lifted with the uptempo Used to Love U and bringing the soul and funk to the R&B of Alright.
The Beginning set a change of pace, but never staggering for too long the tempo and mood soon shifted again with rich vocal timbre in Let’s Get Lifted effortlessly gliding over lyrics without excessive and unnecessary vocal gymnastics.
Sitting behind a piano cued to a ballad, but the familiar tune coming through signalled something truly special with a breathtaking cover of Dancing in the Dark. Respecting a great song, but adding a clearly distinguishable John Legend style was spectacular.
The slow numbers continued and during Ordinary People the audience took the lead without a verbal cue, singing their contributions throughout before being upstaged by more impeccable vocals from the stage. After a few more, the set could have been over but as the lights hadn’t come back on there was certainly more to come. The cheers soon indicated an impending encore of All of Me, accompanied simply by piano and the crowd.
There was still more to come, with the soundtrack of Empire State of Mind accompanied by images of NYC rolling on screen before Alicia Keys appeared on stage delivering a sassy, attitude fuelled Karma. The trip through the back catalogue continued with You Don’t Know My Name, and the monologue may have gone on for a little longer than necessary, but no song ever seemed out of place on the night. Rather each seemed purposely selected and linked with a little banter or tale between to link and define significance.
A respite from self motivation in Listen to Your Heart and the affection of Like You’ll Never See Me Again was provided in what ended up being a bit of a girl power anthem in A Woman’s Worth, delivered with class and conviction.
The piano continued to dominate and while the slower tracks could have been long-winded, none failed to impress with notable builds and vocal power including Unthinkable (I’m Ready) balancing out the evening amongst the funk, soul and fun, let alone the defiance of Try Sleeping with A Broken Heart.
Before long an extended intro hinted at a familiar melody, and a tinkering of the ivories led to a small cheer which built into a roar in response to the opening of Fallin’, and the realisation of how frequently it had been desecrated by reality TV auditions. The original is simply unmatched.
The focus was on the music and theatrics were kept to a minimum, with a few dancers, a short intermission filled by backing vocalists, and one costume change. Fans were given gratitude with a dedication of If I Ain’t Got You, phones were willingly waved in the air to light the darkness and the positivity of No One reigned.
An encore set a new pace with New Day before a funky and drum driven Girl on Fire. The stage became bare and with the lights still down some decided to leave but there was evidently more to come with Jay Z appearing on screen for his contribution to Empire State of Mind before the impeccable stage delivery from Alicia and band delivered an epic finale. Not to be outstaged however, by Alicia’s son appearing on stage to wish everyone a good night.