Unless Francis Ford Coppola or some other major Hollywood talent was at the New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival presented by Shell on Saturday, singer, pianist and major talent John Legend may have been the only Oscar winner on the muddy Fair Grounds Race Course.
Legend, the winner of an Oscar in February for “Glory,” a song featured in the civil rights drama, “Selma,” closed out Saturday at the Congo Square Stage. Despite the early afternoon deluge that soaked the Fair Grounds, Legend performed for a big Congo Square crowd.
A superb romantic balladeer, Legend performed several of his love songs. In doing so, he delighted ladies and gentlemen alike, especially if the lady and gentleman were together.
“Some of you are here on a date tonight,” he said. “Like the muddiest date night you have ever had. I’m not making you any promises, but I’m setting you up.”
A little John Legend music – “All of You,” “You & I,” “Save Room” -- plus dinner at Red Lobster are fine ingredients for a romantic evening, Legend said.
Singing at the grand piano he played during much of the show, Legend had no trouble making the crowded Fair Grounds in daylight feel romantic, even intimate. He’s a passionate communicator who pulls every bit of emotion from his classy material.
Beside the ballads, Legend and his band and backup singers performed his happy up-tempo hit, “Green Light,” as well as Michael Jackson’s disco-era classic, “Rock with You.” The latter song fit smoothly into Legend’s romantic rhythm-and-blues-pop milieu.
Legend’s talent for interpretation appeared again when he sang and played Simon and Garfunkel’s secular hymn, “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” solo at the piano.
Ending his show with “Glory,” the socially conscious singer struck the tone of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. in words he added to the performance.
“We believe in justice based in a foundation of love,” he said. “Let’s come together and form a love collective. Let’s fight for justice and, one day when the glory comes, it will be ours.”