John Legend At Capital Jazz Fest

  • John Legend performs at Capital Jazz Fest on June 6 in Columbia, Md.
    Photo: The Recording Academy

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By Nicole Greenstein
Columbia, Md.

For the past 21 years, the Capital Jazz Fest has brought some of the hottest contemporary jazz artists to the suburbs of Washington, D.C. And this year was no exception.

Proving the festival has some soul, this year's Jazz Fest also featured a Friday Night Soul concert. R&B singer/songwriter John Legend was a natural choice to perform at the concert, taking place June 6 at Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Md. The nine-time GRAMMY winner has been basking in the success of his Top 5 album Love In The Future and his first No. 1 hit, the passionate piano ballad "All Of Me."

Legend strutted onstage looking nothing short of sharp. Dressed in a white tuxedo coat and a black skinny tie, Legend sat down at his Yamaha piano and launched into the first song of the night, "Made To Love" from 2013's Love In The Future. The performance began with Legend and his piano, but as the song progressed he was met with the sounds of swelling violins and the gritty strums of an electric guitar. As Legend held out his final note, concertgoers couldn't contain their excitement; even the cheers from the back of the lawn echoed all the way down to the center orchestra.

Legend's set list included some vintage songs, too. Before bringing back his first hit song, 2004's "Used To Love U," Legend prepped the audience on their singing parts.

"Now there's two types of crowds: the crowds that sing along, and the low-down, dirty good-for-nothing crowds that don't sing along," said Legend to the crowd as they burst into laughter. "Are you ready? One, two, three: sing." As he pounded out the opening hook on the keyboard, the audience joined in, supplying a full-bodied chorus of "la la las" throughout the entire pavilion.

Later, Legend treated the crowd to a soulful, gospel-infused cover of Simon & Garfunkel's GRAMMY-winning hit "Bridge Over Troubled Water," which he prefaced with a tender dedication to his grandmother.

But the highlight of the night was Legend closing out his set with a violin-backed "All Of Me." This time, the audience didn't need any prompting from Legend to sing along. They matched every word without missing a beat — except for a brief moment when one man proposed to his girlfriend and the crowd erupted. But Legend is used to mid-song proposals, and he continued playing while sending a knowing smile in the couple's direction.

As Legend reached the second chorus, he let the crowd test their own chops. "Sing it!" he shouted, looking out into the stadium with a toothy grin, mouthing the words without singing. The darkness over the pavilion lifted as the spotlights shined on the crowd and, as a group, we sounded surprisingly on-pitch. The stadium sang out the soaring melody in unison, serving as Legend's own backup chorus comprised of nearly 20,000: "'Cause I give you all of me. And you give me all of you."

Although he penned that song for his wife, Chrissy Teigen, Legend gave his all to the crowd, and he saw the love returned in multitudes.

Set List:

"Made To Love"
"Tonight (Best You Ever Had) "
"Used To Love U"
"Save Room"
"Green Light"
"Good Morning"
"Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel cover) "
"You & I (Nobody In The World) "
"Who Do We Think We Are"
"Ordinary People"
"All Of Me"

Catch John Legend in a city near you

(Nicole Greenstein is an intern with The Recording Academy's Washington, D.C., Chapter, and has written about music for Time magazine, and various other publications. She is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania, where she earned honors for her thesis on the evolving state of the music industry.)

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