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Live Review: John Legend @ Wolf Trap — 6/5/24

John Legend recently delivered a heartwarming and unforgettable autobiographical performance at the Filene Center at Wolf Trap in Vienna, Virginia. I attended the second of three consecutive nights at the stunning outdoor amphitheater, which seats approximately 7,000 people and is nestled in a beautiful wooded setting, for a memorable sold-out show.

As the rain held out, creating a beautiful Wolf Trap evening on June 5, the audience remained blissfully unaware of the two tornadoes that touched down less than 30 miles away in neighboring Montgomery County, Maryland. From the moment Legend took the stage a little after 8pm, he captivated the audience with his soulful voice, personal stories, and undeniable charm, making those in attendance feel like close friends by the end of the evening. According to his aunt Brenda McDonald, the Wolf Trap concert was a true “family affair”, with Legend’s mother, aunts, first cousins, nieces, and a brother in attendance.

Legend shared intimate details of his life, from joining the church choir when he was seven under the guidance of his mother Phyllis, the choir director, to his father’s role as a deacon and his grandparents’ positions as pastor and organist. He opened up about his grandmother’s passing and losing his mother for 10 years to her battle with depression and addiction, showcasing his vulnerability and the power of forgiveness and grace.

The singer’s musical journey was an ongoing theme throughout the evening. He recounted collaborating with Lauryn Hill on her album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, where he was paid $500 by Columbia Records for his participation, as John R. Stevens (before changing his stage name to John Legend). Columbia is the same label he is with today, which he joked is a lot more than $500. Legend emphasized the importance of following one’s passion and taking calculated risks in the music industry, he talked about his experiences and backup plan of working as a consultant for Boston Consulting Company out of college.

Stream top tracks by John Legend on Spotify:

Legend’s personal life took center stage. He also made the disclaimer that he would be name-dropping during the evening. When you have had a career like Legend’s there are plenty of names to drop. He talked about meeting his wife, Chrissy Teigen, and their wedding, where he played special songs, they even had the legendary Stevie Wonder as a guest, who performed “Ribbons in the Sky,” a song that Legend had been covering since he was fourteen.

The singer’s early days in New York City were marked by his friendship and collaboration with Kanye West, who was working on “College Dropout” while Legend was creating “Get Lifted.” It was around that time that Legend adopted his stage name, inspired by poet J. Ivy, who remarked on his “old-school sound” and compared him to the legends of music. He knew he made it not when he won his first Grammy but in 2005 when he got a call from Magic Johnson and Oprah Winfrey on the same day. Legend performed at Oprah’s Legends Ball which celebrated some of the iconic living black women, heroes of hers. He joked it was a good thing he changed his name to John Legend since he doesn’t think that John R. Stevens would have been invited. He then celebrated those women and all of the other Wonder Women with a rousing version of “Wonder Woman.”

Watch the official music video for “Wonder Woman” by John Legend on YouTube:

Throughout the evening, John Legend showcased his commitment to social justice and empowerment, sharing his vision as a 20-year-old and his journey of using his platform to give back to his community and fight for justice and equality. He emphasized the need for forgiveness and grace in addressing mental health and addiction issues, sharing his mother’s story of sobriety and the blessing of having her back in their lives as a wonderful mother and grandmother.

The setlist was a perfect blend of Legend’s hits, covers, and heartfelt dedications. From the gospel-infused “Mary Don’t You Weep” to the emotional “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” dedicated to his late grandmother, Legend’s performances were filled with passion and sincerity. The audience sang and waved their hands along to favorites like “Used to Love U” and “Ordinary People,” while “All of Me” showcased Legend’s incredible vocal range and piano skills.

The warmth and admiration from the audience were obvious throughout the evening, not only during the songs but also as he shared his life story. John Legend’s concert at Wolf Trap was an unforgettable experience, combining his incredible talent, personal journey, and commitment to social justice, leaving the audience inspired and uplifted.

Certain aspects of the research and/or drafting for this piece may have employed AI

Setlist:

Set One
Prelude – w/Orchestra
I Only Have Eyes For You – w/Orchestra
Ooh Laa – w/Orchestra
Tonight – w/Orchestra
Mary Don’t You Weep Piano – w/ Choir
Take My Hand Precious Lord – w/Orchestra & Choir
Bridge Over Troubled Water – w/Orchestra & Choir (dedicated to his grandmother)
Ribbon in the Sky – w/Orchestra
Stay With You – w/Orchestra & BVG’s

Set Two
God Only Knows – Acapella
Dancing in the Dark – w/Orchestra
Used to Love U – w/Orchestra & Choir
Ordinary People – w/Orchestra
Wonder Woman -w/Orchestra
Redemption Song – Solo piano
What’s Going On – w/Orchestra & Choir
Glory – w/Orchestra & Choir
Umi Says – w/Orchestra
All of Me solo
This Time/ I Love, You Love/ Adore/ So High

Here are some photos of John Legend performing at Wolf Trap on June 4, 2024 (the first of his three-night residency). All pictures courtesy of Karl Magnuson for Wolf Trap.


John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.
John Legend live at Wolf Trap.