John Legend gives all of himself in intimate Byham show

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John Legend has performed at awards shows. He’s collaborated with the biggest names in the music industry. He’s sold out venues all over the globe.

Father’s Day brought a more intimate John Legend show. There was no large band behind him, surprise appearances or gimmicks.

Sunday night at the Byham Theater was an elegant performance tailored toward those who have followed Legend since the piano player and songwriter came onto the scene in 2004.

"It's good to be back in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania," Legend said to a beaming crowd. "It's good to see all of your beautiful faces again."

The nine-time Grammy award winner used the “All of Me Tour: Intimate, Acoustic and Stripped Down" set to interact with fans in a way not possible for the typical show in a hockey arena or outdoor pavilion.

He dedicated all of the time he had to turn the show into the most intimate experience he could. He asked one pair on stage how long they had been married and proceeded to dedicate a song to them. He told stories about how his father taught him that lobster and shrimp are the ways to a woman's heart.

He explained how he used to play shows in New York at 5:30 p.m. on Fridays until he eventually was found by Kanye West.

Most importantly, he never took the smile off his face. Legend thanked the crowed multiple times and reiterated over and over how the show was the type of thing he always dreamed of doing.

Dressed to the tee in a black jacket, black slacks and a white dress shirt, Legend spoke in a way that educated the audience that despite the fact he’s a global force in the love song industry, he’s as humble as he is talented.

With just his voice and piano accompanying one guitarist, three violinists and one cellist, he used the tour to showcase a side of his songs not otherwise seen in music videos and broadcast performances.

"I want you to feel like you're in my living room," Legend said. "We're going to get up close and personal. Is that alright?"

Even though the tour is named after the chart-topping song Legend released in 2013, the hit wasn’t played until he calmly strode back on stage to play it as an encore.

The varied discography included performances of “Let’s Get Lifted,” “Used to Love U,” “Save Room” and “So High.” The absence of the collaborators on his songs like Kanye West, Andre 3000 and Rick Ross had no affect on the songs.

The parts where Legend would toss it over to his peers for their verses were replaced with piano riffs and improvisation with his own lyrics. He hit every note with tremendous accuracy, told multiple stories about his journey and kept the crowd, which included Legend's uncle and family and Steelers great Franco Harris, laughing between every song.

Legend performed for almost two hours and used the extended time to treat the fans in even more ways, like his own version of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark.”

But it was a moment during the song “Ordinary People” that truly encompassed the personality of the show. Legend sang in the chorus: “We’re just ordinary people, we don’t know which way to go ‘cause we’re ordinary people, maybe we should take it slow.”

For at least one night, it appeared he was just as ordinary as any other member of the audience. There were no cellphones raised in the air to record songs or intricate light system to highlight the songs. There didn't need to be.

“All of Me” may be about a woman, but it’s the three words that should be used to describe what Legend gave to his fans.


rschaffer@post-gazette.com Twitter @rjschaffer

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