John Legend has a classy, intimate homecoming at the Kimmel

John Legend performs at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards. Tuesday he was here.
John Legend performs at the 2014 Billboard Music Awards. Tuesday he was here. (ETHAN MILLER / Getty Images)
Posted: May 23, 2014

In 2013, John Legend found intimacy. Along with marrying his longtime love, model Chrissy Teigen, Legend - one-time choir leader and University of Pennsylvania student - released the album Love in the Future. That quietly kinetic collection surprised some listeners with a new sensuality, a change from previous themes of romance and universal consciousness.

On Tuesday, the Kimmel Center welcomed the well-dressed pianist and singer in a public homecoming that moved to an after-party at Bar Volvér in the Kimmel complex.

Legend was still the cool customer, a handsomely reserved pianist whose soulful music was steeped in church, classical music, and his father's advice, as Legend put it, "to always be a gentleman."

As a singer, during "Made to Love," he held himself in reserve, despite the carnality of the lyrics. That reserve didn't last long. Backed by a guitarist and a string quartet whose arrangements were both daring and right, Legend's voice opened and soared.

His falsetto flirted with the jazzy chord changes of "Let's Get Lifted." He found the sway of samba in "Maxine" and simmered through a cover of Bruce Springsteen's "Dancing in the Dark." There was as much force as there was subtlety when he sang "Save Room" with Billie Holiday-like dips and teases, tricks he carried on throughout his set.

As a pianist, Legend gave "Green Light" a cosmopolitan jazz-pop feel reminiscent of Joe Jackson's work on his iconic album Night & Day. His piano work also let his gospel leanings, which he often calls an important part of his upbringing, peek through. He finished with his joyous, platinum-selling new hit, "All of Me."

The fun didn't stop there. Concertgoers with tickets to the after-party at Bar Volvér - the saloon half of Iron Chef star and restaurateur Jose Garces' boutique Volvér eatery at the Kimmel - were treated to steak tartare, strong martinis, and an intimate visit with Legend. "I miss Philly, man," Legend said. "It's always nice coming home." He mentioned that after rehearsal Tuesday night at the Kimmel, he'd had a multicourse Garces-prepared meal at Volvér. "Now that," Legend said, "was one of the best meals that I've ever eaten, and I've eaten all over the world."

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