By Anna Letson, Multimedia Editor
Down the street from his old neighborhood and his first four apartments, John Legend put on a performance you could almost call religious in the 1849 Gothic Revival synagogue that is now the Angel Orensanz Center. Just a after the release of his latest album “Darkness and Light,” Legend teamed up with Pandora for the latest of the company’s “Pandora Presents” shows to market their newly launched streaming service on Dec. 8. In a glow of blue underneath the cathedral ceilings, Pandora staff, partners and a lucky selection of Pandora listeners made up the intimate crowd privy to the show. After braving the cold outside, guests were treated to free drinks, coat check, an instant photo booth and glowing bracelets that that cycled through different light modes. Pandora made the night an affair to remember.
Opening the show with “Penthouse Floor,” the second track off of his new record, John Legend eased his way on stage with charm and buttery smooth vocals. “Darkness and Light” hadn’t been released even a week prior to the show, but many of the fans in the crowd already knew the lyrics and were eager to sing along. Moving into his title track off the album, Legend commanded the stage with astounding presence and a sway to his hips. After a duet, “Overload,” with one of his backup singers and “What You Do To Me” Legend took a moment to reminisce, reflecting on his history in the Lower East Side and East Village with a fondness.
The show became somewhat of a homecoming and a review of his career, continuing his set as a medley of old and new works. Winding the clock back 12 years to one of his breakout songs, “Used To Love U” (produced by former roommate’s cousin Kanye West) evoked a sense of nostalgia for both Legend and long time fans. Singing his hits chronologically through the years, songs like “Ordinary People,” “Greenlight” and “Tonight” took the audience on a journey of his career as he moved back and forth between the front microphone and the glossy Yamaha piano center stage. The energy he radiated could be felt in the audience and seen from the sweat glistening down his temples. Legend was supported by a 12-piece band and two backup singers, including his producer for “Darkness and Light” Blake Mills, filling the space up to the 50 foot ceilings.
Encoring his show with a solo rendition of “All of Me,” Legend let the audience sing a majority of the chorus, beaming ear to ear. Although his voice is crystal clear, it’s his presence and the glint in his eye that makes him such a charming performer. He combines his ability to deliver heartwarming music with an evocative dialogue about current events, earning him an Oscar for his song “Glory” which he finished the night with. Along with his new album, John Legend has time and time again shone as an fantastic performer filled with heart, soul and a passion for everything he does.