John Legend at the Greek Theatre


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The R & B singer offered love songs galore. The best performances were the ones that he didn't try to work too hard at.

Before he found fame as an R&B singer, John Legend labored briefly as a management consultant, and Tuesday at the Greek Theatre he put that business experience to work, waiting until he was a quarter of the way into his 90-minute show to make an offer he'd already fulfilled.

“Y'all wanna hear some love songs?" he asked. Of course we did; Legend has no other kind.

Over three albums he's released since 2004, this 30-year-old Ohio native has come to fill a niche in the contemporary R&B scene -- further evidence of his strategic mind. Unlike Maxwell, he doesn't preach about the psycho-spiritual properties of sex, nor is he a Ne-Yo-style nice guy.

Rather, Legend subscribes to the Marvin Gaye school of thought: For him, love is an all-purpose vehicle of change, an antidote to the various “troubles in the world today," as he put it Tuesday while introducing his song “Slow Dance."

Like most pop sociologists, Legend's not necessarily one for detailed solutions. “The news said the sky is falling, but it's all right," he sang in “Quickly." Later, he advised turning down the television and turning up the John Legend as a means of coping with the prospect of global warming. If only Al Gore had thought of that.

At his best, though, Legend musters an infectious spirit that gives his dubious prescriptions real-world weight. He hit that sweet spot intermittently at the Greek, where he was backed by a 10-piece band that included three horn players and three backing vocalists. (Legend was scheduled to play the same venue tonight.)

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