Categories: Mario Sanguinet, THE BUZZ

THE BUZZ: “Ordinary People” and an Extraordinary Evening with, EGOT Winner, John Legend. 

by Mario Sanguinet

June 20, 2023

On Friday June 16, 2023, the Rady Shell hosted a sold-out “Evening with John Legend,” a performance that blended stories from the life and career progression as well as the music of one of the youngest EGOT recipients.

On Friday, June 16, 2023, John Legend graced the stage at the Rady Shell at Jacobs Park. Known for his smooth vocals, timeless hits, and captivating stage presence, Legend did not disappoint his eager fans who had gathered to witness his remarkable talent.

The Rady Shell, at sunset, provided a sublime backdrop for the performance. The audience, a diverse mix of devoted fans spanning generations, eagerly awaited the arrival of the music icon.

Legend took the stage, exuding charisma and confidence in a way that only someone who has won all the US’ major artistic awards can—Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony, EGOT, if you will. And in a remarkable display of artistic prowess, for nearly two hours, he only used two instruments: his piano and his voice. 

“An Evening with John Legend” really was that. The performance was a mixture of storytelling and musical dexterity, all taken to an entirely new level. And you could expect nothing less from one of the youngest EGOT winners in history.

It would be odd to call it an intimate affair, since it was a sold-out show. Yet, the content and the nature of some of the stories shared are what created that sense of closeness with Legend. Textbook self-disclosure, which is an intimate process

Granted many of those present may have already spent hours with him, listening to his records. But in reality, all that is happening is a parasocial interaction because while Legend might be communicating and speaking to the listener, the listener is rarely able to communicate back. 

The set list included some of his best-known songs from across his career, including “Tonight (Best You Ever Had),” “Wonder Woman,” and “All of Me,” which he wrote for his wife, Chrissy Teigen. And of course, “Ordinary People” from his first album “Get Lifted.” To some of his more recent work, like “Glory” his powerful collaboration with Common—the theme for the critically acclaimed film “Selma,” which won both of them an Oscar. 

During his remarks for “Glory” he proceeded to talk about how important it was for him to take a stance on political issues. Even though some might tell him to, “Shut up and sing,” which he noted to be somewhat of an oxymoron. It was during these remarks he referred to the ongoing culture wars, particularly the book bans in certain states. 

He went on to say, “Support your local library!” Upon hearing this comment, I was immediately transported back to the late 2010s when the internet pointed out how similar Legend looked to Arthur. His wife responded. He was confused. But then they both got in on the joke. Why is any of this relevant? Because the PBS show Arthur has a great song on how “having fun isn’t hard when you’ve got a library card.” A full-circle type of moment, for me.

Talent is often a shorthand for someone’s natural born gifts and attributes whether they be artistic, professional, recreational, academic, or otherwise. What often is missed in the discussion of talent is practice, thousands of hours of deliberate practice

So, to say that Legend is a talented musician would be a severe disservice—almost an afront—to the thousands and thousands of hours of work he has devoted to his artistry over the decades. 

As he noted during the evening, it was over the course of years—through a range of opportunities he sought out and others that found him, eventually—that he was able to experiment personally and professionally. 

What began as involvement in his church’s choir in Springfield, Ohio during his childhood and adolescence. To then playing the piano on Lauryn Hill’s “Everything is Everything” while he was an undergrad at Penn. To working as a management consultant and moonlighting as a musician after college. To developing a collaborative relationship with Kanye West, now Ye, to the point where they both had an impact on each other’s first album.

This range of experiences led him to hone his craft, find his sound, and develop his voice. This range of experiences led him to become one of history’s youngest EGOT winners. This range of experiences led him to a sold-out show at the Rady Shell on a warm San Diego summer evening. 

All of which became evident on that Friday night. 

As always, when going to the Shell remember to bring a jacket or a blanket. Find out who else is coming to the Rady Shell and take a look at the San Diego Symphony performance calendar

Vanguard Culture

Vanguard Culture is an online media entity designed for culturally savvy, socially conscious individuals. We provide original interviews and reviews of the people, places, and events that make up San Diego’s thriving arts and culture community, as well as curated snapshots of the week’s best, most inspiring and unique cultural and culinary events. We believe in making a difference in the world, supporting San Diego’s vibrant visual and performing arts community and bringing awareness to important social and community causes.