Chills and nostalgia could be felt up every spine at the Rochester Institute of Technology’s Gordon Field House on Thursday, Nov. 11. A mixed crowd of college students, elderly couples and middle-aged men and women, who looked as if they were prepared for a Motown anniversary, packed Gordon to hear the six-time Grammy winner John Legend sing and play his heart out.
Although it was merely an hour and 15-minute concert, every minute was golden and worth the discounted $18 ticket and the bus ride from UR.
When Legend was first welcomed to the stage, every guy who showed up to the concert without a date had to feel somewhat awkward (including myself). The great roar that Legend was able to illicit from even the most timid of women was quite impressive.
With purple-tinted lights and a chorus of young and grown women screaming, Legend walked toward his piano at center stage in what resembled live slow motion. Once he took his bow and sat at his piano, without a band or back-up singer in sight, it was time for Legend to go to work.
He didn’t fail to deliver. Legend’s relatively young career is already multifaceted enough for him to perform quite an impressive set. He started off with songs from his 2004 debut album “Get Lifted.” When he performed one of the most popular songs off of the album, “Used to Love You,” he got the audience to help out with the chorus. “La, la, la, la, la, la, laaaa,” echoed throughout the crowd every time that Legend paused for the audience to interject.
Naturally, everyone was swaying back and forth in their seats when he performed selections from his bestselling album to date, “Evolver.” Hearing “Everybody Knows,” “Heaven Only Knows” and “Green Light” played only on piano added an even classier feel to the already genteel Legend.
Aside from his most popular work, he even performed some songs that were never released off of his first mixtape. He even played one song that he just wrote a week prior to Thursday’s concert.
“I just wrote this song, and this is my first time in Rochester,” Legend told his fans. “Is it alright if I try it out on you guys?”
He also performed one song that he wrote after being inspired by the recent documentary “Waiting for ‘Superman’,” which is about the public school system failing to provide for all students.
Of course, there’s no other way to end a Legend concert than by closing with his first No. 1 Billboard hit, “Ordinary People.”
“Sometimes you want somebody you can’t have, so all you can do is dream,” he said before transitioning into his last few songs.
Or so we thought.
When the concert was “over,” Legend took a bow and headed off the stage. But when everyone crowded toward the exit, there was suddenly a voice coming back from the stage.
“I know that you guys have homework and everything, but is it alright for me to do just one more song?”
Again, no qualms. Everyone who had nosebleed seats stampeded toward the front of Gordon to hear Legend perform “So High” and “This Time.” That time, he was done for the night.
Legend’s concert, with no back-up singers, bands, hype men or dancers, was yet another testimony to the great nostalgia that Legend offers the R&B and soul world — that all an artist needs is their talent and their crowd.
There wasn’t a moment that Legend didn’t acknowledge his fans, nor was there a moment when he abandoned his gifts. In between every song, he spoke to his fans and continued to play a tune before transitioning into the next one. Every audience member felt as if Legend were having a one-on-one chat with them over brunch. And when he took the time to shake as many hands as he could after the concert, one couldn’t help but feel as if Legend were a close friend of their family.
We can only hope that he isn’t just a mirage of the golden days, but a sign of things to return.
Nathaniel is a member of the class of 2011.