JOHN LEGEND | LIVE REVIEW
Motorpoint Arena Cardiff, Tue 19 Sep
Sat almost an arm’s length away from the stage, it was a fantasy-full set for this reviewer, absorbing John Legend’s mastery on the piano and his phenomenal ability to perform. JL opened with I Know Better, the first song on his new album: “Legend is just a name / I know better than to be so proud.” These words from this gospel r’n’b track are humble, and a sincere opening statement to the show, essentially saying he has come a long way and has now matured as an artist.
Penthouse Floor, one of my favourites from the album Darkness & Light, harbours a deeper social message, being heard and seen from a neighbourhood that often gets overlooked. Without Chance The Rapper’s section included, it had less depth and was more of a funky party tune. Natalie Imani took the place of Brittany Howard for Darkness & Light; she lacked power in comparison to the Alabama Shakes member, but this was still a stellar performance as the contrasting styles of singing worked well with the song.
Taking a trip down memory lane, John broke out Used To Love U from his 2004 breakthrough album Get Lifted. It’s quite a contrast to the beginning of the set, and indeed his new album and where he is in life at this present moment. Save Room and Slow Dance, both from second studio album Once Again, had couples swooning at his seductively smooth tones.
An upbeat version of Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly brought funky visuals, the brass section squat-dancing and sassy backing vocals. This song, he informs us, was playing when his daughter was born, before segueing into Right By You (For Luna) as an adorable montage of home videos played behind him. And of course, he couldn’t complete his generous 24-song set without Ordinary People, the one song responsible for his fame. An awestruck crowd sang along word by word.
Transported to a planetarium-esque lightshow, John’s two-song encore began with All Of Me, his head swaying like prime Stevie Wonder. He closed with Glory, his Oscar-winning song from the film Selma; footage from the civil rights movement, the Women’s March on Washington and Black Lives Matter protests serving as a backdrop. Not only an entertainer but a cultural influencer, credit to John Legend for using his platform to encourage social activism and love as a unifier. Leaving the arena I felt uplifted: this was an incredible experience that will stay with me forever.
words CADI DAFYDD JONES photos NATHAN ROACH