There were no dancers or over the top stage props, swirling confetti or wham-bam lighting scenarios, it was kept simple, and sophisticated. What a relief! A production, that is far from what you would normally associate with a big-time Grammy winner, marketed as stripped down, it was void of all the typical on-stage hype.
You could actually hear the music, and appreciate the lyrics and arrangements for what they are. And at most events these days, the norm seems to be over-amplified sound and on-stage antics with the actual music taking second chair. It’s always refreshing when a big time artist strips it down…Charming!
Simply a man and his music, you don’t need all the fancy trimmings with an elaborate stage show to captivate a crowd. He was accompanied by seven touring musicians, guitars, bass, drums and a lovely the string quartet. Which proved to be more than enough.
It’s tricky when you attempt to make a canoavorous arena feel like a living room, you may fall flat on your face or pull off performances of a lifetime, again Legend hit the mark. What at first glimpse may appear to be something done with ease, you’ll find it’s the highly-skilled professionals that make it look easy. And that’s the interesting bit, and that’s why it’s a full house.
Another problem, he’s sitting at his piano for most of the show, so the audience on the right side of the arena was watching his back during most of the performance. The large video screens helped in this regard, but still you had to choose your tickets wisely. I’d recommend a little YouTube research time to determine the stage set-up, (which remains basically the same for the entire tour) whenever planning to attend an event with a piano band.
The challenge with most, if not all, piano playing singer/songwriters is there is not much movement on stage, but the production team were able to change it up enough, with Legend off the keys at regular intervals on the setlist. He’s not the greatest dancer but certainly doesn’t need to be, with an A for effort, he was really getting into it.
And backed-up by a more-than-capable band, they were able to change things up to keep the crowd interested.
The lighting set-up itself was top of the line, very well done. Unfortunately, it was soundboard only shoot so your shooting from a football field away and basically only one angle, very limiting. When he was here 5 years ago, at a different stage of his career, access was not as near as limiting, but no surprise there, typical for big name acts these days.
A consummate pro, he addressed the audience on many occasions, and as the old axiom goes, he had the crowd eating out of his hand. “I was working with Powerpoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets all day, Very sexy work,” Legend joked. “But at night I would go to the studio…”
Before performing the song “Again”, he spoke of his writing process which I found extremely interesting. He explained how he would insert gibberish as lyrics as he worked on the melody. When he demonstrated this, the crowd exploded with laughter, great stuff.
Sharing an anecdote before playing “Maxine,” he spoke of the lyrics, a sexy song about a woman who was involved with two guys, and by involved he’s not talking Facebook friends. When the song was released, he was surprised to receive a call from his grandmother, whose middle name happens to be Maxine. “I didn’t know it at the time but she was so happy that I wrote a beautiful song about her … I didn’t think she listened to the lyrics very well,” as the audience erupted in laughter.
His version of Simon Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” actually rivals the original, and that’s saying a lot, cause that’s a classic. And I’m an avid Simon and Garfunkel fan. I first heard them on 8-Track, Quadrophonic sound no less, but that’s another blog entry. It started off light, as it should, and rose methodically with a pounding piano melody, and Legends soulful vocals swept the crowd away to another place and time. Really really nice…
Enjoyed the various versions of the songs compared to some of the original recordings, sometimes scaling the arrangements down to just his vocal and accompanying instrument, either a piano, acoustic guitarist or with strings, very well done.
Other songs, arranged to utilise the instruments differently, either by adding distorted electric guitar and bass or allowing the strings to do much of the musical support. On “So High”, Legend and his bandmates brought them all together in an impressive crescendo, outstanding stuff, and the crowd gave a thunderous reply, they just loved it.
Changing it up again, “Made to Love” was backed by an upright bassist and a drummer using mallets.
During the entire event, a 20 song setlist by the way, which is more than average at today’s concerts, Legend connected with the crowd, and even if you weren’t paying attention, you could really “feel” the emotion in the air. People all around me were drawn into the performance, which is always inspiring to experience, that’s really what a concert is all about. The final song of course was “All of Me,” with everyone in the crowd joining in, (except me of course, I can’t sing worth a lick), the arena resounded closer akin to a cathedral, beautiful stuff…
Special thanks going out to Wilbros productions for bringing the event to Manila…