John Legend never seems hurried. Even as the music gallops around him, Legend remains steady. That patience has made him one of pop music’s most successful vocalists, an adaptable Everyman whose gospel-tinged baritone sounds natural alongside everyone from Rick Ross to the Roots.
During a two-hour set at DAR Constitution Hall on Wednesday, Legend unpacked a litany of traditional soul, singing warm renditions of newer songs, such as “Tonight (Best You Ever Had)” and “Who Do We Think We Are,” and older tunes, such as “Save Room” and “Heaven Only Knows.” At times he grew fiery, such as on the stampeding “Who Did That to You?” from the “Django Unchained” soundtrack. But for the most part, Legend kept things intimate: “Oh yes, baby!” one fan screamed. “You better saaaang!” shouted another.
Four songs into his performance, Legend paused for some one-on-one time with the crowd. “First time I was here [in the District], I was opening for Alicia Keys in 2005,” said the nine-time Grammy award winner to loud applause. “We’ve come a long way.”
The 34-year-old singer — clad in an all-black suit — was in full command of the audience, slowly prancing about the stage as his quartet played vigorously behind him. When Legend asked fans to stand, they got up from their seats. If he said, “Sing,” they sang loudly. Legend was the conductor; the crowd was an enthusiastic choir.
Following a bouncy version of “Green Light,” Legend and his band stopped abruptly and left the stage. The singer reemerged by himself moments later, sat behind a grand piano, and ran through passionate interpretations of “Dreams,” “Again” and a cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark.” For his smash hit, “Ordinary People,” Legend walked into the audience and led a syrupy recital of the song’s familiar refrain. “Take it slooooow,” Legend crooned, by now hitting his stride completely.
As the show progressed, Legend continued to bask in the spotlight. Clearly, he enjoys what he does, and in turn, Legend’s fans embraced at every turn, gliding with him through his expansive discography. He didn’t rush. Legend took his time and did it right.
Moore is a freelance writer.