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October 22, 2014

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Review: All John Legend needs is love, a piano and a microphone at Smith Center

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Jordan Strauss / Invision / AP

John Legend and Chrissy Teigen arrive at the Oscars on Sunday, March 2, 2014, at the Dolby Theater in Los Angeles.

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Elegant, charismatic and flawless.

These three words describe singer-songwriter John Legend in look — a white dinner jacket with a white dress shirt, a black skinny tie, black skinny slacks and black dress shoes — and voice — powerful, passionate, strong, sexy and smooth — on Thursday night in his “The All of Me Tour: Intimate, Acoustic and Stripped Down” stop at the Smith Center for the Performing Arts.

In Legend’s stripped-down acoustic set — he at the piano, plus one guitarist, three violinists and one cellist — he proved that an artist can captivate an audience for nearly 90 minutes without LED screens, dancers and DJs and instead with talent (he’s a master at tickling the ivories), sincerity and soul.

Highlights and high notes:

Legend impressively hit all his high notes, and there were many of them. He uttered only one F-bomb in what otherwise was a profanity-free evening. His cover of Bruce Springsteen’s “Dancing in the Dark” was jazzier, darker and absolutely divine.

There were five couples sitting onstage behind him, and he dedicated “You and I (Only in the World”) to Caesar and Samantha, who have been dating for eight months (Samantha wiped away tears). He described Reynolds Hall as “a lovely venue.”

A few quips from Legend, who is a great storyteller:

He said that the couples with the seats onstage had a great point-of-view, but they couldn’t tweet during his show or go to the bathroom. In attaining that first hit, he said that one can never go back. His case in point: Lorde’s “Royals,” in which she sings, “We can never be royals.” But Lorde is rich now!

While introducing “Caught Up in Your Love,” he talked about how it was a special occasion to dine out while growing up in Springfield, Ohio, and that his father’s restaurant of choice was Red Lobster. “My father taught me how to be a gentleman, and that the way to a woman’s heart was with a little … all-you-can-eat shrimp.” He said that the Smith Center was his first concert in Las Vegas that wasn’t in a casino, which drew loud applause.

And a few quibbles that nearly tarnished an otherwise wonderful evening in Reynolds Hall:

Yes, Legend asked for requests on several occasions because he’s a nice guy and appreciates his fans, but it’s not an open invitation to shout at him during the entire performance.

And audience sing-alongs are the only time attendees are allowed to sing. Otherwise, shut it — unless you’re the performer onstage with nine Grammy Award wins and a newlywed wife who is a Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition model (and 2013 cover girl of Vegas Magazine).

Take a lesson from the effortlessly classy Legend and show some class. This is the Smith Center, not your neighborhood karaoke bar.

Thursday night’s setlist, with every song about love: “Made to Love,” “Tonight (Best You Ever Had),” “Let’s Get Lifted,” “Used to Love U,” “Stay With You,” “Maxine,” “Again,” “Where Did My Baby Go,” “Save Room,” “Dancing in the Dark,” “Green Light” (the evening’s lone up-tempo song), “Good Morning,” “Everybody Knows,” “You and I (Nobody in the World),” “Who Do We Think We Are,” “Caught Up in Your Love,” “So High,” “Ordinary People” and, for his encore, “All of Me,” which ascended to No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 this week and is by far his highest-charting single.

At only age 35, Legend is already a music legend.

Don Chareunsy is senior editor for arts and entertainment of the Las Vegas Sun.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow Sun A&E Senior Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

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