John Legend's performance at the McKittrick Hotel on Wednesday night as part of "Citi Presents Evenings with Legends" could have been a master class in how to be an entertainer. With nothing but a piano and a microphone, the R&B balladeer had the 200-person crowd in a trance.
The intimate venue, which evoked a 1940s rustic speakeasy club, made the standing-room-only performance heightened with excitement as part of the week-long celebration for Super Bowl XLVIII.
After opening with "Made to Love" and "Tonight," Legend spoke to the crowd conversationally as he smoothly transitioned from song to song.
"It's cool doing a small venue like this,' he said while ticking the ivories. "When I lived here for 14 years. I'd play clubs like SOB's, Knitting Factory, Jimmy's Uptown in Harlem and Sugar Bar on the Upper West Side."
In addition to knocking out hits like "Ordinary People," "Used to Love U" and "Save Room," Legend turned Bruce Springsteen's 1984 pop song, "Dancing in the Dark" into a dark, jazzy number that the audience devoured. He even did a tribute to the Beatles' 50th anniversary invasion of America by performing a gentle version of "Here Comes the Sun."
"Super Bowl week in New York City," said Legend, shaking his head. "This is something I'd never thought I'd see."
When he tested the audience to see how many people were fans of the Broncos or the Seahawks, he got a sparse response. "Any Giants fans here?" asked Legend as the crowd exploded. "I think the Giants win here, which is good because they didn't win much this year. I'm kidding . . . but it's true!"
Because of the intimate setting, Legend opened the floor to requests. People weren't shy, and wasted no time calling out their faves. He picked out "Stay With You" off his debut album, "Get Lifted" and "You & I," the sleeper off his new album, "Love in the Future." However, he insisted the crowd participate. "I've got no background singers," he said, "so I need your help."
The women in the crowd swooned as Legend encored with his recent hit "All of Me," which he sang to his wife, supermodel Christine Teigen, who sat in the front row.
"By the way," Legend slyly said as he exited. "Thanks to my friends at Citi for naming this week after me!"