John Legend RodeoHouston, Reliant Stadium March 2, 2012
With a soft smile, seducing glare, and smooth voice, John Legend hit the Rodeo Friday night with his brand of neo-soul, hip-hop and R&B for HLSR's Annual Black Heritage Day. The Springfield, Ohio native, nee John Roger Stephens, looked very convincing in his black suit, oversized belt buckle and cowboy hat.
In his second consecutive performance at HLSR, his show was every bit as intimate and engaging in the cavernous Reliant Stadium as his previous Houston shows at the House of Blues, Verizon Wireless and Toyota Center.
He began his set by warming up the crowd with an a cappella version of Adele's "Rolling In The Deep." Yes, the song may be played out, but Mr. Legend's version was still pretty sweet. When the Kanye West-produced "Used To Love U" followed, we could see the crowd start to dance in their seats and groove to the rhythm. We often think of this song as a prequel to Kanye's "Gold Digger," because it tackles some of the same issues regarding money-hungry girlfriends.
With all of his talents, one could easily make comparisons between John Legend and Stevie Wonder. Both are genius piano/keyboard players, songwriters and composers. Even Legend's band, comprised of crispy horn players, a funky rhythm section, and dynamic backup singers, reminded us of Wonder's band that we heard at ACL Fest last year. They hit every note with conviction and swagger, perfectly complementing Legend's voice and keys.
Alternating often between his piano microphone and the stand-up mike, he kept the show running without much hesitation between songs. He urged the crowd to "get a little closer to your baby," and proceeded to serenade the lovers in the audience with his smooth voice. He selected a lovely woman named Keisha from the crowd and gave her a one-on-one slow dance.
Ever the showman, he held her close and then dropped to his knees passionately, much to the approval of the ladies in the arena. Dude is like a member of The Temptations!
Our favorite moment of the night was when he rolled out his hit "Ordinary People". He urged his fans to sing along, and boy did they ever. He ended with "Green Light", an uptempo dance number that had him doing the Chicago boogie on top of his grand piano.
"God bless you, Houston! Thank you very much!"
No, thank you John. Until next year, we hope.
Personal Bias: I've been known to give a "Green Light" to a little "P.D.A." from time to time. I just don't care.
The Crowd: Fifty thousand John Legend fans that sounded really nice singing "Ordinary People".
Random Notebook Dump: As a practicing Catholic like me, the worst thing you can ever do is go to RodeoHouston on a Friday during Lent on an empty stomach. Well, maybe not the worse thing, but it still sucks!
Mutton Busting Report: One kid wants to be a fireman when he grows up; another one wants to be an astronaut. Then there is that one kid that wants to be a ninja. Yes, a ninja. Ah, to be young again.
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Rolling In The Deep (Adele cover) Used To Love U Higher Ground Dreams Let's Get Lifted Alright I've Been Watching You Tonight Slow Dance P.D.A. Save Room I Can Change/I'll Go Crazy Everybody Knows Ordinary People So High Greenlight