K-OS with JOHN LEGEND and SAUKRATES at the Molson Amphitheatre, July 15. Tickets: $32.50. Attendance: 6,700. Rating: NNNN Rating: NNNN
Some artists come here too frequently. Talib Kweli, for example, is in town so often I hear he's got a weekly party called Kweli's Quality Tuesdays at the Rivoli. (Just kiddin'.)
John Legend's another. Over the last year - during promo for his album, then again after it dropped, shortly thereafter as an "encore show," and again with Usher and Kanye at the ACC and again and again for good measure - he's regaled the GTA ad nauseam with his feathery piano pop-soul. Still, he's never played the Molson Amphitheatre before, so for the night's 905-dominated crowd this was probably a first Legend sighting.
Seemed it anyway from the way folks got down to Kanye's crooning sidekick and his band and backup vocalists and their uptempo hits like I Used To Love You. Legend's catalogue is composed largely of mid-to-slow jams; his schmaltzy songs make him sound like he should've been writing for Barbra Streisand 15 years ago. With his polished-up lounge voice, he could duet with her, too.
But even seated at his Steinway, he's a charming showman, and gets respect for chatting when not singing. He peaked when medleying through the hooks he penned for Jay-Z, Alicia Keys and Kanye, and running around the stage for his personalized Selfish "remix."
After techies erected a graffiti'd-up set, a man came out and read a legal disclaimer that the show would be filmed and you should go if you don't want to be on camera.
Then k-os 's helium/alien voice effect greeted all the Earthlings, and with the help of swift DJ (and Nelly Furtado's baby daddy) Lil' Jaz , a top-pedigree five-piece and the incredible breakers from the B-Boy Stance video, he sang, spat and wilded out throughout his set. He dropped a new gem called Freeze, busted out a keyboard segue into Crabbuckit from Ray Charles's Hit The Road Jack and channelled the innocent gloved one for Man I Used To Be.
He freestyled, too - a risky move before thousands, and more so since his improv rhymes are somewhat simplistic. But it was heavily backed up all night by lyrics, flow and the distinct perspective of a sincere philo-hiphop Renaissance man.
Also, judging by his crowd, he's got the 18-to-32 demographic padlocked. If k-os ever wanted to come out with an energy drink, the iron is hot.