John Legend, Hammersmith Apollo, review: Warm vocals showcased in stripped down tour

Focusing on one of the mild-mannered soul singer's less memorable love songs, though, hardly represents the best of his time

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The Independent Culture

An “unplugged” set enables established stars to display their craft, which for John Legend means showing how he wrote 'Again', via bare chords, then scatting over its emerging melody.

Focusing on one of the mild-mannered soul singer's less memorable love songs, though, hardly represents the best of his time. Not that Legend's adoring fans mind, chuffed to find him in a reasonably manageable venue. For ten years on from his debut album, velvety ballad 'All Of Me' has given the New Yorker his first US number one.

For this tour, the white-jacketed performer offers a stripped down backing (just three-piece band and string quartet); “taking it back to the beginning,” he explains. Such arrangements bring out the best of his warm, if undemonstrative, vocals and subtle piano accompaniment.

Legend's attitude to romance can betray his background as a management consultant – as in 'Caught Up's invitation to make some “love tax write-offs” - while clearly scripted interludes give little scope for interaction.

Still, dedicating a showstopping 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' to his departed grandma feels heartfelt.

Plus, there is enough conviction in early hit 'Ordinary People' and 'All Of Me' to suggest backing his classic take on R&B remains a safe investment.

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