John Legend closes Saadiyat Nights concert series with a legendary performance

Egot winner captivates audience with musical mastery and intimate stories

Egot-winning artist John Legend brought an illustrious concert series to a memorable close with a blend of soulful melodies and personal tales. AFP
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A chilly Saturday evening and an open-air amphitheatre made for the perfect setting for John Legend's balmy baritone to close out the Saadiyat Night series, which has seen performances by stars such as Mariah Carey, Sting and Andrea Bocelli.

The custom-built venue, which has hosted performances since January 6, was almost packed for Legend, one of only 18 artists to have an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony award to his name.

Stepping onto the stage in an elegant burgundy suit, Legend started out strong with hits including You and I (Nobody in the World), Ooh Laa, A Good Night and Penthouse Floor, he had the crowds up, grooving, singing and dancing along from the get go.

Legend will mark 20 years since his debut album Get Lifted in December. He regaled the crowd with stories of his humble beginnings – from playing the piano on the song Everything is Everything from The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, singing on Jay-Z's Encore and backing vocals on Alicia Keys's You Don't Know My Name, to working with Kanye West and Slum Village, plus writing American Boy with Estelle and Ordinary People with Will i am.

Legend said it was a dream to headline his own shows.

“You're a dream come true, Abu Dhabi,” he said to a huge round of applause.

The artist, who has previously performed at Dubai's Coca-Cola Arena, Dubai Media City Amphitheatre and at Louvre Abu Dhabi, played some of his most popular collaborative tracks – including Minefields with Moroccan-Canadian singer-songwriter Faouzia, Like I’m Gonna Lose You with American songstress Meghan Trainor, All She Wanna Do is Dance with American rapper Saweetie and Green Light with American rapper Andre 3000.

The highlight of the evening though, was when after a quick change into a tuxedo, Legend took to the piano. He explained he learnt how to play from his grandmother and sang some covers, to which he added his own twist, including a very smooth and slow I'm Feeling Good and a soulful rendition of Like a Bridge Over Troubled Water.

Throughout the show, he constantly engaged with the crowds – from telling them stories, to encouraging them to sing along – proving he is not only a fantastic singer, but an equally enthralling performer.

A mix of his own songs followed – from early hits such as Save Room and Green Light, to more recent hits such as Conversations in the Dark, as well as Nervous from his latest album, Legend.

For the grand finale, there was nothing more befitting than his biggest hit All of Me, and the high tempo track Wild. Towards the end of the performance, the audience was back up on their feet to sing along with the artist, with many requesting Legend to sing even more.

At one hour and 30 minutes, Legend's performance was a perfect mix of upbeat tracks and soulful ballads, and the cosy venue added to the great vibe of the show.

The Saadiyat Nights concert series has brought some big names to the UAE capital this season, and the fantastic venue seats enough, but still doesn't seem intimidatingly large. It makes the concerts feel like a more personal experience, one that we hope will be back for another season when the weather cools down again, and continues to bring some of the best talents from around the world to Abu Dhabi.

Updated: March 03, 2024, 4:36 AM