John Legend has been clearing high bars for nearly 20 years now – if you choose ‘Legend’ for a stage name, you’d better be ready to live up to it, and since before 2004’s Get Lifted, Legend has been, for want of a better phrase, crushing it. One way you can tell an artist has got used to going big, and not going home, is the release of a Christmas album.
There’s no room to hide when you’re doing standards that people have been proving themselves against for decades, and his sixth studio album, A Legendary Christmas, is a triumph. Featuring Stevie Wonder, Esperanza Spalding, and an old-school image of Legend in a Santa hat and bow-tie combination, the album was released this October, in the wake of Legend’s becoming the first black man, and the second youngest person, ever to win the complete and coveted EGOT – Emmy, Grammy, Oscar, and Tony – awards. This winter, he’s been touring the album, and this Friday, he’s coming to Oakland’s Fox Theater.
Titled “A Legendary Christmas Tour” (again, go big or go home), the tour runs from the 16th November to the 30th of December, with the artist performing in Chicago, Denver, Seattle, Los Angeles, San Diego, and on the 21st, at the Fox Theater in Oakland.
A Legendary Christmas was executive produced by singer-producer Raphael Saadiq, and debuted at number 26 on the Billboard 200. Eight of the fourteen tracks are seasonal classics, while six are new and original numbers. It’s a faultless slice of holiday vibe: Legend doesn’t deviate from a quintessential holiday mood, with an effortless blend of jazz, gospel, and soul that keeps the classic tracks true to the originals while simultaneously reimagining them and adding Legend’s own fabulous twist. The guest appearances are well thought-out – Wonder features on the classic “What Christmas Means to Me,” while Spalding delivers a beautiful rendition of the age-old “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”
Elsewhere on the album, “Silver Bells,” “Merry Christmas Baby/Give Love on Christmas Day,” “Christmas Time Is Here,” “Purple Snowflakes,” “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire),” and “Please Come Home for Christmas,” all land beautifully, and the original tracks are powerful and soothing in their own right. “No Place Like Home” is particularly moving, and it may just become Legend’s own classic down the years, and the record’s standout track, “Waiting for Christmas,” is poetic, longing, and poignant, and it could leave you teary-eyed and hopeful all at once.
A Legendary Christmas is a well-conceived, flawlessly-executed collection of Christmas classics that are worth listening to all through the holidays, and Legend’s reputation as one of the best live performers in the world is well-deserved, so the show promises to be a very special night. If you’re looking for a special pre-Christmas night, head to the Fox Theater on the 21st to enjoy one of the best Christmas albums this year, played by one of the best performers of this century, at one of the best venues anywhere.
John Legend plays the Fox Theater Nov 20-21, 2018 // Doors 7:00 p.m. – Show 8:00 p.m. // $79.00 – $233.50