A legend returns

2009-10-09 13:54

JOHN Legend doesn’t do “the outrageous”. He leaves all of that craziness to the likes of his bud and collaborator Kanye West and others who thrive on the melodrama. Instead he would much rather be the mousy one on the red carpet and the front rows of music awards – and that works for him.

“My focus is to make music, that is my main thing. I don’t want to be in the press for outrageous reasons, I’d rather be in the newspapers for my craft,” he says.

We chat just after the Kanye West MTV Awards debacle where the rapper jumped on stage and spewed bile on teen singing-sensation Taylor Swift ­after she beat Beyonce to the best ­female video award. A furious West, grabbed the microphone from Swift and announced that Beyonce deserved to win and not her. This resulted in a major backlash against West and he has since apologised for his outlandish conduct.

However, Legend hastens to point out that Kanye regretted what he did and knows that he was in the wrong. It’s hard to imagine Legend engaging in these kind of antics. He is reserved, almost shy, soft-spoken and just doesn’t do the outrageous. He is a ­gentleman.

On the trans-Atlantic telephone line, he comes across as well-mannered, if not ­introverted. “Fame has not sprung up a lot of surprises. I have been prepared and also I have been around a lot of people that were famous already, so I got into it prepared.”

We change the topic to his impending trip to South Africa, the Evolver tour. This is his third visit since his solo career took to the skies with the release of his debut Get Lifted in 2004 that earned him a whopping eight Grammy nominations.

HE HAS already performed at Jozi’s Standard Bank Arena, Sun City’s Superbowl and this time around he will be performing in Durban, Cape Town and at the Coca-Cola Dome in Jozi. Concert-goers can expect Green Light and Everybody Knows from his latest album Evolver and classics from Ordinary People and Heaven.

Legend brings with him a guest performer in the form of talented girl-of-the-moment Keri Hilson for all the shows, starting in Cape Town on Thursday.

“I am looking forward to touring South Africa again. I know that I have great fans there. I feel the connection is strong and there is a lot of love and enthusiasm from the people.

“I am coming with an 11-piece band that includes keyboards, bass, drums, and a horn section to give you guys a soulful and energetic show. I will be singing material from my three albums and a few covers which are my favourites, it will be quite a variety of songs.”

Legend says Hilson is a great artist who will go places. “Knocks You Down is my favourite song this summer.” He also mentions Jay-Z’s latest release Blueprint III as a must-have. “I think Jay-Z is one of the most gifted lyricists around.”

Legend says his most memorable time in SA was when he met Nelson Mandela and went on safari at the Pilanesberg Game Reserve when he stayed at Sun City. He also remembers Cape Town as an enjoyable stay. This will be his first time in Durban.
The star says he’d rather be up on stage connecting with his audience than in the studio. “I aim to please, to connect and ­exchange with the audience. People would love to hear about love and relationships and the intricacies involved.”

He also states that there are other threats that mankind has to deal with and these include global warming, climate change, global ­poverty, Aids and malaria.

“It should be our responsibility to make sure that every child has an opportunity for education”.

Legend says he believes that his mission is to make the world a better place through his music and philanthropy, “that makes me very happy”. Show Me, Legend’s charity campaign launched in 2007 has adopted a village in Tanzania and he is spending $1.5million over five years to support ­agricultural efforts, education and healthcare with the aim of helping the villagers to help themselves.

Legend is also regarded as one of the cheerleaders of US president Barack Obama, especially during his campaign last year. But the coy star denies having Obama’s number on speed dial, despite meeting him several times. He is still a follower of the man though.

“He is very intelligent and aware of what’s going on in pop culture, he is cool for a politician and is a good guy. It’s an interesting time since his election and there are some pressing issues that he is tackling, I still believe that he’s the right man for the office.”

He may be eloquent in his support for Obama, but Legend harbours no political ambitions. He is more at home tickling the ivories, serenading the microphone and working up a sweat.

John Legend and Keri Hilson perform in Cape Town at the Grand Arena Grandwest Casino & Entertainment World on October 15th. Tickets from R243.00. In Durban at the Indoor Arena International Convention Centre on October 17th. Tickets from R218.00. Johannesburg at the Coca- Cola Dome on October 18th. Tickets from R218.00. Doors open at 6.30pm
Tickets are available at Computicket.

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