The Kennedy Center announced Monday that John Legend will headline a free concert May 28 in the Opera House showcasing an eclectic group of pop artists who have emerged via YouTube.
The one-time event, “YouTube OnStage Live from the Kennedy Center,” will feature a range of acts whose videos have gone viral. They include Lindsey Stirling, a dubstep violinist whose “All of Me” duet with Legend has 20 million views on YouTube, and the activist organization Playing for Change, which patches together performances by artists around the world playing the same song. The Playing for Change video “Stand By Me” has more than 60 million hits on YouTube.
Also on the bill: Les Twins, composed of French brothers and hip-hop dancers Larry and Laurent Bourgeois; jazz-influenced pianist Scott Bradlee and his band, Postmodern Jukebox (scheduled to play The Hamilton in June, and boasting an online hit for their doo-wop cover of Miley Cyrus’s “We Can’t Stop”); and Mike Relm, a video director, DJ and musician. Relm’s projects include short video remixes of “Harry Potter” movies and comedy acts such as Amy Schumer and Key and Peele.
“What I’m trying to do onstage is like a movie on steroids,” Relm explains in a video on his Web site.
Legend, who appeared at the Kennedy Center in 2012 for a Marvin Gaye tribute, helped curate the event. The concert will not be streamed live, but it will be filmed and uploaded to the Kennedy Center’s YouTube site.
The Kennedy Center is plainly aiming to up its digital game and broaden its reach to a younger demographic. The live performance will reach 2,200 people in the Opera House (assuming a capacity crowd) and potentially hundreds more watching in the Grand Foyer as the show is simulcast on screens. Online, the audience could eventually reach millions.
“The Kennedy Center is a temple of culture,” says Darrell Ayers, the center’s vice president for education and jazz. “And YouTube has become a 21st-century temple of culture.”
The event is free to the public but not cheap to produce. Ayers declines to put a figure on the expense, but he says Google, which owns YouTube, is largely underwriting the project.
Tickets will be distributed in person at the Kennedy Center beginning at 6 p.m. for the 7:30 p.m. show, in part to cut down on scalpers.
“We want the people in line at the Kennedy Center to be the people in the audience,” Ayers says.