John Legend at Budweiser Stage

Photos by Katrina Lat.

Back in 2004 nobody knew what kind of career John Legend would have. He came on the scene as a prodigy piano player found by Kanye West, back when he was a lovable backpack rapper. His hip-hop inspired RnB was a breath of fresh air as the genre had been staid since the end of the 90’s. Now almost fifteen years into his career and he has truly grown into his moniker of “Legend” with a worldwide tour called the Darkness and Light Tour. 

The stage was partitioned with screens all along the front with a hole in the middle high off the floor, as the music started Legend slowly rose up behind the screens coming into view playing I Know Better off of his latest album that shares the same name as the tour. As the screens separated and Legend’s piano riser lowered the full band came into view. Legend grabbed a mic on stage and welcomed Toronto to his show. He asked the crowd to get on their feet as he continued playing new songs with Penthouse Floor, a song that normally features Chance the Rapper but went without his verse at the show. 

Legend pretty much only sings about two subjects, sex and love and both were on full display throughout the night. The audience was promised that it would be the best we ever had alluding possibly to the show but in reality it might have been something else on his mind. Legend is indiscriminate with his love, as everyone deserves it. On the video screens a bunch of couples of varying ages, races and sexualities were shown as Love Me Now was played. On Darkness and Light one of Legend’s back up singers dueted with him as Alabama Shake’s Brittney Howard was not present. Legend praised Howard’s work on the track calling her “the truth”. 

Legend turned the clocks back all the way to 2004 as he played his very first single Used to Love You, jazzing up the song as the old school fans sang loudly along.  The banter was plentiful throughout the show. At one point Legend joked about how if you came to the show as a new couple you might be saying you love them by them end because that’s just how much Legend puts it all out there. 

The show had several covers including Meghan Trainor’s Like I’m Gonna Lose You, and Curtis Mayfield’s Superfly. Before launching into Superfly Legend told the story about how he played DJ while his wife Chrissy Teigan was giving birth to their daughter this past year and that specific song came one when she finally was delivered and he vowed to play it the whole tour in honour of her. Legend also has the ability to be succently political. He played the soul classic Wake Up Everybody by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes while imagery of civil rights protests played behind him with numerous shots of Martin Luther King Jr and his I Have a Dream speech. 

The show was designated a date night and Legend joked about how he was doing all the leg work to get couples in the mood for loving and sternly told the guys in the audience to not fuck it up. Legend also performed an a capella version of God Only Knows, the Beach Boys classic, showing off just how utterly powerful his voice is something that is sometimes overlooked for his overall stage presence or piano playing. 

For the encore Legend played his biggest hit yet All of Me, a touching tribute to his wife and their relationship. He finished the set with his Oscar winning song Glory from the Selma soundtrack. Once again footage of civil rights protests played, but this time current protest imagery was also shown including shots from Black Lives Matter marches. While it is nice to think that because segregation and Jim Crow laws are a thing of the past, Legend acutely reminded everyone that racism still persists and there is still plenty of work that needs to be done to ensure that everyone is equal. Legend sung with a fist in the air that many people in the audience reciprocated. 

A true showman, John Legend danced, played piano and thoroughly entertained the crowd at Budweiser Stage.  With a long discography, plenty of hits and deep tracks were played and several covers giving something for everyone.

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