America’s oldest and quite possibly most diverse summer-long music festival kicked off Saturday night when John Legend sold out Ravinia as part of his “Darkness & Light” World Tour. “It’s great to be back at the Ravinia and we’re gonna make it a great night,” said the singer, songwriter, piano player and actor (who will virtually reappear at the venue in the movie portion of “La La Land” In Concert on June 18). “I feel the love tonight.”
Yet the most obvious vehicles for Legend’s talents as a troubadour and performer came when just his voice and piano carried the early career breakthrough “Ordinary People” and the relatively recent mega-hit “All Of Me.”
Throughout the course of his two-hour performance (preceded by The Weeknd meets Maxwell-styled baby-makin’ music of Gallant), Legend, his eight-piece band and three background singers fulfilled that prediction, skillfully intertwining the soulfully smooth with the socially conscious. The 38-year-old may very well be this generation’s answer to Stevie Wonder or Marvin Gaye in both his blend of vintage and contemporary R&B, but also his fierce commitments to civil rights activism and a growing family.
Legend’s wife (and model in her own right) Chrissy Teigen was in the house and frequently shown in pre-taped segments on the screen alongside their first child Luna. In fact, after breezing through his own crests “Tonight (Best You Ever Had),” “Darkness & Light” (elevated by Grammy, Tony and Emmy Award-winning surprise guest Cynthia Erivo) and “Save Room,” the headliner broke into Curtis Mayfield’s funky “Superfly” since it was the very first song his daughter ever heard, and later, pledged to be the very best father he could during “Right By You.”
Along the way, he turned to Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes’ “Wake Up Everybody” (also the title track to his collaborative collection with The Roots) to address the continued fight for freedom and equality. That statement was magnified all the more in the grand finale “Glory” from the soundtrack of “Selma,” co-written with Chicago’s very own Common (who wasn’t present, but will appear at Ravinia on June 24).
Yet the most obvious vehicles for Legend’s talents as a troubadour and performer came when just his voice and piano carried the early career breakthrough “Ordinary People” and the relatively recent mega-hit “All Of Me.” The latter may very well be one of the most beautiful love songs of this century thus far, which should he continue mixing the personal and culturally pertinent with such ear-pleasing arrangements, may someday rank this already 10-time Grammy recipient right alongside the greats he appreciates.
For additional information on John Legend, visit JohnLegend.com.
Upcoming concert highlights at Ravinia include Pat Metheny (Jun. 14); Seu Jorge presents “The Life Aquatic”: A Tribute To David Bowie (Jun. 15); Willie Nelson & Family (Jun. 16); “La La Land” In Concert (Jun. 18); Sammy Hagar & The Circle (Jun. 19); Gipsy Kings (Jun. 23); Common (Jun. 24); Michael McDonald and Boz Scaggs (Jun. 27); Diana Krall (Jun. 28) and The Moody Blues (Jun. 30). For additional details, visit Ravinia.org.