Concert Review: John Legend

It looked like couples night for John Legend's concert Tuesday at the Gibson, and why not? The R&B singer-songwriter is, most of all, a grand romantic.

But those romantic elements took awhile to surface. Early on, his performance was filled with too many overcooked numbers, taking the stage in sunglasses and a leather jacket while the rear video screen displayed footage of him as boxer. (Lightweight? Not musically.)

He eventually found his center, however, and connected with the full house, tapping into the legacy of Marvin, Teddy and Luther,CQ though he's truly his own man.

Although he's best known for being seated at his piano, Legend spent plenty of time working the front of the stage. His 12-member band featured three vocalists, each getting their chance to shine, and a trio of horns to bring that taste of soul tradition. Legend was stylish, at times even elegant. What a fine contrast to lugubrious hip-hop braggards and nu-soul artists who pander rather than seduce.

He shuffled selections from his three Columbia albums, including last year's "Evolver," but much of Legend's strongest work in the studio and onstage still comes from his platinum 2004 debut "Get Lifted," including the life affirmations of "Let's Get Lifted" and "Alright," and the ballad that launched his career, "Ordinary People."

He brought out support artist Estelle for their reggae-flavored duet "No Other Love," invited a female fan up for the slinky "Slow Dance," rode out the effortless glide of "Save Room" and matched the recent Southern California warm spell with the summery, Spinners-styled "P.D.A. (We Just Don't Care)."

Legend lost a bit of momentum with ballad-heavy sections near the end, but already had charmed his fans all over again and no doubt won over some new ones, too.

Gibson Amphitheatre, Universal City (Tuesday, Jan. 13)
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