John Legend started his intimate set as part of KCRW’s Apogee Sessions series with a song about his prowess in the bedroom, “Tonight”, and as soon as he sang the first verse of the “best you ever had”, the crowd burst into cheers.
John has sold millions of records, won handfuls of Grammys, yet seeing him in an intimate venue in front of 200 people felt right because he needs nothing more than his exceptional voice to carry a show. He even sang a few verses of his smash hit “All of Me” a capella, further proving that point.
Luckily, he also has tons of personality, a charming stage presence, plays the piano beautifully and brought along a string section to add extra emotional touches.
He followed “Tonight” with “Save Room” and “Maxine“, favorites from his album “Once Again“, then a cover of Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On”.
He’s in town for two sold out shows, a headlining gig at the Greek as well as a Marvin Gaye tribute at the Hollywood Bowl. He embodies the soul singer with ease and his cover has all the more weight to it after the events of the week in Ferguson, MO. (Read more about his thoughts on it in the Huffington Post).
He also has a bit of a beard going which makes him look even more like the soul legend.
One of the night’s show-stopping moments came during the interview, with host Jason Bentley.
He asked John about how his songwriting process and we got a crash course. John said the music comes first, with a little tinkering at the piano, and then he starts to sing melodies with jibberish lyrics that he fleshes out later.
He demonstrated this by moving to the piano and showing us how the song “Again” came about. He mentioned it was written here in LA and was about a “bad relationship cycle”. Watching the process made the final song even more exciting – as did the fact that the song wasn’t on his original set list so we got an extra one!
He talked about the importance of making songs personal and universal at the same time, translating his experiences in his life in ways that can be applied to everyone. “All of Me”, the ultimate love song written about his wife Chrissy Teigen, being the perfect example.
It was a magical night of music in its purest form, bare bones, passionate and from the heart.
It was engineered and mixed by the famed Bob Clearmountain and will air on Morning Becomes Eclectic this Wednesday, August 20.
KCRW’s Apogee Sessions featuring John Legend
Tonight (Best You Ever Had)
What’s Going On (Marvin Gaye)
Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel)
You & I
All of Me (solo)
**ALL PHOTOS BY BRENDA JANAIRO