Concert Review: John Legend at Firefly Music Festival in Dover
John Legend is a busy guy. After a 50-city tour with Sade in 2011, he found time to propose to model-girlfriend Chrissy Teigan, sign on with ABC’s spin on American Idol called Duets, as well as continue several philanthropic efforts. Between filming Duets, he has also been working on his latest studio album, so it is no small miracle that virgin festival Firefly in Dover, Delaware was able to book this R&B powerhouse performer.
The Firefly Festival is located in a somewhat magical setting, a wooded field near the Dover International Speedway. At first glance, it seemed the Speedway would be playing host to the event, but only the NASCAR venue’s parking and camping facilities were used for the fledgling festival. After crossing a bridge over Highway 1 to enter the wood, a duo of stages await, one large, one small. Meandering through a wooded passage, dressed in twinkling lights, revealed a second field with two more stages for your listening enjoyment, and thankfully, the asphalted NASCAR stadium seemed a million miles away.
The clouds brought a bit of rain, and a welcome drop in temperature, Friday afternoon as John Legend took the Firefly stage at 6:30 pm. The 9 time Grammy winner began his set with a cover of Bob Marley’s quite mellow “Redemption Song,” beautifully crooned from a stool center stage, but the melancholy was soon left behind for uptempo hits “Tonight” & “Used to Love U.”
John, as well as the numerous band members, were clad in black from head to toe, letting the music take center stage. Next, he took to the piano for “Hard Times” from his collaborative album with the Roots, Wake Up!. With a smile plastered upon his face, he stayed at the keys to cover Stevie Wonder’s “Higher Ground,” paying homage to one of the greats that came before him. Early in the set, he spoke of how great it was to be in Delaware, and the rebuttal from an audience member was that it was a phrase “never spoken before in the history of the world.” Maybe the Firefly Festival can change that, as this is the first festival I have attended that resembled Christopher Robin’s fictional Hundred Acre Wood.
The rest of the 21 song set relied heavily on his (many) hits from his prolific catalog, including “Heaven,” “Get Lifted,” “Again,” and “PDA,” much to the crowd’s delight. “Slow Dance” was left out of the set, unfortunately, as it is one of my personal favorites, and it would have made the evening that much more magical.
One of the highlights of the evening was “Everybody Knows,” and all the girls swooned as he removed his leather jacket to bounce about the stage more easily. The song began with little accompaniment, showcasing his smooth, sweet, pitch-perfect vocal as well as the authenticity of the lyrics, before building up to the full band. Later the crowd was more than willing to participate in a sing along during “Ordinary People,” the Grammy award winning single from Get Lifted.
The ladies were treated once again as John hopped off the stage to sing “Green Light” from the audience. Scores of fans got a close up performance before he returned to the stage to wrap his set atop his piano.
John certainly lives up to his stage name (his actual surname is Stephens) and is one of the best R&B acts in the business. His music draws a wide audience, and with good reason, as his onstage charisma is disarming. His new album, “Love in the Future,” is due out in the fall, and if the track “Dreams” is any indication of the quality of the album, expect him to pick up a few more Grammys come 2013. A worldwide tour will launch late this year; don’t miss John Legend when he comes through a town near you.
John Legend Firefly Setlist
July 20, 2012
Redemption Song (Bob Marley cover)
Tonight (Best You Ever Had)
Used To Love U
Higher Ground (Stevie Wonder cover)
Wake Up Everybody
PDA (We Just Don’t Care)
I Can Change
I Want You (She’s So Heavy)