John Legend Finds “Love in Las Vegas”

By Rod Stafford Hagwood
One of the top-selling recording artists of all time, John Legend has conquered other entertainment arenas, racking up an impressive trophy case with his EGOT status (Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony awards). Now he has decided to conquer Planet Hollywood Resort & Casino.

John Legend can do anything. Legend will take centerstage at the Zappos Theater for his first Las Vegas residency, titled “Love In Las Vegas,” beginning April 22.

JB Smoove

Photograph by Mike Rosenthal

JB Smoove

Photograph by Mike Rosenthal

On Being Legend-Ary in Las Vegas

“I just love being on stage,” Legend tells Caesars Player. “I love the connection that I feel with the audience. I love putting all of my energy and creativity into putting on a great show. And we’re going to do all of that for this audience in Las Vegas. It’s always fun to play in Vegas because people come from all over the world to enjoy the city and enjoy all the things the city has to offer. We want to give them an amazing show.”

The Las Vegas shows will be even more amazing because Legend promises some Easter-egg-like bonuses, perhaps even some celebrity cameos.

“That would be a matter of people’s availability and the timing, but we definitely plan to have some of our friends come. I’ve done a lot of collaboration over the years, and we’d love to have some of them come by.”

And he plans on throwing in some Improvised moments as well. “That will change from night to night, you know, we’ll…make some covers that are unexpected, we’ll do some deep cuts that are unexpected. I think we’ll have a similar setlist every night, but we’ll do some different things depending on how the spirit moves me. I like to do a lot of that surprise stuff.”

He goes on to recall that with his concert tours, “We had a whole middle section of the show where I just sat at the piano and told stories and that changed every night and the songs that I chose to do in that moment changed every night, so [maybe we’ll] have moments like that.”

With Las Vegas, showmanship is everything. “When you have a residency, it gives you a chance to kind of build out your production in a way that you may not have done upon on a traveling tour,” Legend adds. “And so it’s kind of a special version of a concert because we’re going to have a little bit more opportunities to stretch out and do some things production-wise that we may not have done if we were traveling on buses and trucks around the country. And so, it gives our creative team a lot more room to be creative and to do some fun stuff on stage that we may not have done on a normal tour.

“I think as a lifestyle thing, it’s cool because I live in Los Angeles and it’s a very easy commute. It’d be easy to still be a very present father and husband while doing the residency and so there’s all kinds of reasons why it makes a lot of sense, but part of it is just kind of the milestone that it marks in your career. You have to be at a certain level and have had certain depth and breadth of repertoire to get to this point. I’m grateful to be at that point.”

Legend wants his fans to know that love will shine throughout Vegas and throughout his show. “In some ways we wanted to still be intimate and still be about my shows, which has a feeling of connection and warmth and romance and love that people feel,” he explains. “And so that’s one of the reasons why we want to call it ‘Love In Las Vegas’ because we’re bringing all that love that we put out there.”

How Andy Griffith (Yes! Andy Griffith!) Led to Legend’s Activism

Legend’s biography is full of pivotal moments when his drive for social justice has taken the spotlight even as music remained firmly centerstage. “You know, I went to an Ivy League university, worked at a management consulting firm for a few years, but even during that time, I saw those other things as backup plans. I really wanted music to be my main lifestyle and to be my main source of income. I wanted to get my music out there to the world. I’m living my dream right now.”

Right now, but as a child—for a brief time— there was another dream. “As a kid I wanted to be Ben Matlock,” he says, referring to Andy Griffith’s title character in the hit 1980s legal TV drama. “Because I used to love watching Matlock and watching him defend people who were unjustly accused. And I think that’s probably why my philanthropic work has been so focused on criminal justice reform because I believe so often when people don’t have money or come from the wrong side of the tracks, they’re treated differently by our system. And it’s resulted in some people being locked up and so many families being broken up.

“I founded FREEAMERICA to focus specifically on that issue and trying to change the conversation and change the outcomes in our criminal justice system. So, you know, I think in some ways, that was one of my dream jobs when I was younger. And even though I’m not an actual lawyer, I’m able to work in this area and try to make a difference in people’s lives and fight for justice.”

What’s Next in the John Legend Universe?

“We’re waiting to launch a skincare line soon. We recently announced that. There will be other projects, but my main focus is still on music. Extracurriculars are great and I’m very involved in making sure that those go well [but] everything revolves around music for me. I’ve been working on a new album and that will come this year as well.”

But now it’s all about “Love In Las Vegas.” “You just want people to feel the love that we feel for them, feel the love that their partners, or whoever they’re there with, feel for them, and you want them to feel connected. We love putting on these shows because it connects people. It makes them feel the love that we have for them and that they have for each other. And it gives them a chance to bask kind of in that and enjoy for two hours and hopefully it’ll stay with them.”

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