Friday, November 8, 2013
Concert review: John Legend seduced DFW audience Thursday night
He's scaling back the cheating songs, swapping them for baby-making music.
GRAND PRAIRIE R&B singer John Legend has built his whole career on songs about love, romance and the best way to get it on. But now that he’s gotten hitched, he’d like to tweak his lothario image if you don’t mind.
"I’m not supposed to do anymore cheating songs," he said with a grin Thursday night at Verizon Theatre. Presumably, that was a directive from Sports Illustrated swimsuit model Chrissy Teigen, who he married in September.
He went ahead and sang “Number One,” his tale of unrepentant two-timing from Get Lifted, the 2004 debut album that won him the best new artist Grammy. But Legend spent part of the show searching for more mature love in songs from his fourth and latest CD, Love in the Future.
“I finally got to take the night off/So we can make some little tax write-offs,” he sang in the new song “Caught Up.”
A sly lyric about procreating isn’t a big deal for most singers. But for Legend, any change in topic, however slight, is a step forward. Like the late Luther Vandross, whose “Never Too Much” he covered Thursday, Legend can seem like a parody of an overly-serious romantic crooner.
His show featured so many slow-motion video clips of flowers it felt like an ad for FTD. His songs tended to be overly sugary and repetitive, though he did spice things up with jazzy piano during a solo segment and a flourish of hip-hop in “Green Light,” which featured taped rapping from André 3000.
Legend served up another welcome curveball by covering Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes’ social change anthem “Wake Up Everybody” and talking about voter rights. But the show rarely strayed from slow-to-mid-tempo love songs delivered in a smooth, semi-anonymous voice.
He does have vocal range, jumping effortlessly from baritone to falsetto in “Let’s Get Lifted.” But he rarely used it and didn’t need to.
A mellow hipster in high-top tennis shoes who rarely danced, Legend had the mostly-female crowd swooning with a simple wave of the hand or point of the figure: Like a latter-day Johnny Mathis, he got the ladies all worked up while staying on one long even keel.
Thor Christensen is a Dallas writer and critic.