John Legend turns his San Diego tour stop into a family affair
“This is a love fest,” R&B superstar John Legend declared from the stage Sunday night at his Bigger Love Tour stop. And if the audience’s response was any indication, San Diego has big love for Legend.
Rescheduled from its original September 2020 date, ticket-holders waited a long time to see the world-famous musician and EGOT winner take the stage at San Diego State University’s Open Air Theatre.
But instead of it being just a show to support “Bigger Love,” Legend’s seventh studio album that was released during the pandemic, the night felt like a celebration of being able to gather and hear live music in person again after a difficult year due to COVID-19.
“Tonight’s a celebration,” he said. “We’re together in the same place at the same time enjoying live music, enjoying each other’s company and enjoying each other’s energy.”
As Legend reiterated throughout the two-hour show, sometimes life’s hardships can have beautiful results. He pointed out that before he made it big, he was rejected by every major recording label, including the one he’s signed with now.
“Rejection teaches you,” he said. “It prepares you for life.”
And look at Legend now.
Aside from his music, he’s one part of a high-profile power couple, a loving father of two, “People” magazine’s 2019 Sexiest Man Alive, a television talent show coach (he’s appeared on NBC’s “The Voice” since 2019) and a social justice warrior (he received the United Nations Human Rights’ High Note Global Prize for his activism in 2020).
Legend opened the concert emerging from the shadows at the top of the stage, wearing a shiny, white three-piece suit and floral shirt, in front of a bright, colorful digital background of vibrant roses , crooning “Ooh Laa,” a doo-wop-inspired song off his latest album. Fluorescent pink and purple lights, smoke and lasers contributed to the groovy vibe.
Foregoing any backup dancers, he instead had a multi-piece band and three female backup singers supporting him, Supremes-style. The way Legend sauntered and swayed to the music was reminiscent of the old-school R&B singers who no doubt inspired him. His stage persona was cool and smooth, affable and upbeat with enough charm to make the entire audience feel at home.
Legend changed suits frequently to match the color-splashed stage, from his slick white and floral suit to a shocking bright pink suit and later, a brilliant green suit for a performance of “Green Light,” of course.
But it wasn’t until partway through the show, when he performed classic songs, like the stunning “Ordinary People” and “Love Me Now,” that the audience really showed why Legend is so beloved. The crowd of about 5,000 was on its feet, singing along and shouting declarations of love.
A young man sitting in the center of the front row rose at one point and yelled, “The gays love you!” to which Legend smiled and responded, “I love you, too.”
The audience also clearly loved Legend’s famous wife, and they let it be known, shouting, “We love Chrissy!” and “Where’s Chrissy?” throughout the night.
Those sitting in the front were lucky enough to catch glimpses of his supermodel/media personality wife Chrissy Teigen (you couldn’t miss those cheekbones, even in the dark and smoky wings of the stage) and their two children, 5-year-old Luna and 3-year-old Miles, who grooved to their father’s songs while holding onto their mother’s hands backstage. Both children ran out onto stage at times, much to the delight of an audience well-familiar with the family, thanks to Legend and Teigen’s active social media presence.
Legend knows that family is part of his brand, and he name-dropped them frequently throughout the set. Before launching into a new, unreleased single, “Stardust,” Legend mentioned that it’s “Chrissy’s favorite song.” He talked about spending time with his family during quarantine, mentioning his daughter’s preschool distance learning pod, something many in the crowd likely found relatable. Legend also lovingly shouted out his father, Ronald Stephens, sitting a few rows from the front of the stage.
Stephens got a rousing applause. This audience that loved John Legend clearly loved his entire family, too.
Legend ended the night with “Bigger Love,” but he surely knew he couldn’t leave without belting out maybe his most famous release, “All of Me,” a moving love song about his relationship with his wife. (If you’ve been to a wedding between the years of 2013 and now, you’ve likely heard it.)
Before the audience left, he returned to the stage, a pearly white Yamaha grand piano in tow, for an encore that included the much-loved ballad.
“Each of us means something to the world. We’re all special. We all mean something. And I love each and every one of you here tonight,” he said before saying goodnight.
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