17 August 2009

John Legend/India.Arie - August 12, 2009

I can't pretend that I knew much about India.Arie before attending this concert last Wednesday at the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank, NJ. Primarily I knew I was disappointed that I missed Raphael Saadiq as John Legend's opening act a few months ago and that Arie has one really good song I listen to semi-frequently ("I am Not My Hair").

Judging from this concert, Arie has considerable talent. Her voice sounded exceptional within the confines of a small theatre and her lyrics had a special spark to them that seemed to really resonate throughout the audience. And while I appreciate honesty and love to see a spectacle, Miss Arie managed to turn me off a little to both. As the lights dimmed for her set to begin, she appeared on stage, stood in front of the mike, walked off, and allowed her back-up singers to sing lead on two songs before she re-emerged and began her sobby explanation to an audience of concert goers that just spent around $50 a seat to see her during a recession. Apparently she was having a rough day, "could not be anything but herself", and wasn't sure if she could continue with the concert because she was not in the right mood to be singing these songs. While she did manage to get through most tunes, she continued to occasionally stop, mention how much she loathed the music industry, wipe her tears away with tissues someone brought out for her, and confuse her band by changing the set list every step of the way.

I'm sure I can't imagine what she was going through but I tend to have less sympathy for people who make much more money than me doing something they love for two hours a day when the rest of us common folk have to struggle to make $10 an hour. On the other hand, I found myself loudly applauding her sentiments because it's nice to actually see a musician connecting with their work on such a high level. Miss Arie clearly has so much respect for her songs that if she is unable to commit fully to their performance, she is incapable of completing them at all. She also continued to use the phrase "this is my jam right now" as she would go into a song, mostly uplifting, folksy be-true-to-yourself sort of tunes - ones in which she could connect. I'm greatly impressed with that type of musical commitment, though not so much with the self-proclaimed title of "this generation's Joni Mitchell". 50/50.

But of course Miss Arie was lucky enough to have John Legend as the headlining act to pick up the pieces in the most dynamic, sexy, stylish way possible. I have been lucky enough to see Mr. Legend several times prior but even in a small auditorium-like venue that left much to be desired as far as a concert atmosphere, he was the best I have ever seen him. I don't know how this guy could get any better. While he didn't play some of my favorite Legend songs like "Another Again", "Take Me Away", or "Each Day Gets Better", he is one of those artists that can't be judged by set list. Every song is better than the next and his excitement, professionalism, and genuine appreciation of the audience makes his performance exemplary. There is never anything I'm lacking or complaining about after a John Legend concert. He is IT.

On a personal note, I cannot get over his wardrobe. He has to be one of the best dressed musicians I've ever seen - absolutely dashing. Stylistically, this show was a stand out. From the lighting to the pre-taped music videos playing overhead to the gorgeous back-up singers wearing tight shiny leggings and sparkly short black tops, this was the type of concert that people should expect when shelling tons of money on a mezzanine seat and "service" fees. It was a highly charged, highly fashionable night of excellent music - the kind people don't make anymore. John Legend has found a niche that no one else is digging out for themselves, one complete with an old soul vibe mixed with a fresh spin on sultry R&B. Mr. Legend is everything an artist should be in 2009 and a fantastic showman. I highly recommend checking out this tour.

Highlights: "Slow Dance", "Green Light", "Live it Up"

Pictures found on Google - not from concert.

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