Concertgoers of all shapes and sizes descended upon Yun Feng theater last night to see Grammy award winning artist John Legend perform a tight, crisp set that displayed his famed musical chops as well as an unexpected showmanship that more than made up for Yun Feng’s less than stellar setting.
The crowd was a diverse mix of foreign and local fans and scenesters, with a curious dose of confused looking government official types sprinkled in for good measure. After a subdued but polite response (the theater was less than half empty, to be fair) to Vaughn Anthony, the headliner’s opening act and younger brother, Legend made his way through the crowd from the back entrance and popped onto the stage with flourish, the increasingly excited cheers at his back.
“Ni hao, Shanghai!” he called out to the audience, and the show was on. Rarely taking a break from the music, Legend strode between both sides of the stage, imploring the crowd to get out of their seats as he marched through a string of uptempo numbers, starting off with “Used to Love You,” “Satisfaction,” and “It’s Over” (sans Kanye). At one point he invited an eager young lady to join him onstage in a mutual writhe-fest as the audience went nuts.
After slowing things down a bit with ballads such as “Stay with You” and “Good Morning” while at the piano, he returned to his upbeat, rocking soul that kicked off the show, ending the set with the dance-inducing “Green Light.” It wasn’t until his encore, after a yearning, crowd-pleasing rendition of his ballad “Ordinary People,” that Hong Kong songstress Karen Mok made her anticipated guest appearance, performing her classic “阴天” while Legend and his band backed her up. The pair then performed a duet of his “If You’re Out There,” and with that the 90 minute-long show was over.
As was with the Roots show nearly two years ago, Yun Feng’s sound system was a distraction, with speakers spewing an often muddled sound. However, unlike that show, where Black Thought’s flow was nearly unintelligible, Legend’s vocalism suffered much less. This was more than apparent when Karen Mok appeared and was difficult to hear, even from our seat in the 8th row. Still, Legend plays better in a smaller venue such as Yun Feng, as his ballads and cool stylings are hardly a match for the larger venues that usually play host to concerts. Overall, a crowd excited for good music and appreciative of this rare opportunity to witness this caliber of talent, combined with no obvious glitches to the set up or organization, made for a splendid musical Wednesday night.