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Music Review

John Legend wraps his audience in warm embrace

Working with a tight five-piece band, John Legend has the gift of being smooth without ever seeming overly slick.


Working with a tight five-piece band, John Legend has the gift of being smooth without ever seeming overly slick.

John Legend promised the crowd at the Citi Wang Theatre that, as his song goes, they would “get lifted.”

He made good on that promise Tuesday night, wrapping the audience in his appealing corduroy croon and holding them tight for nearly two hours as he sang shimmering songs of romance, both of the fairytale and real varieties, and minor-key paeans to heartache, available only in the real flavor.

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It was an enticing invitation either way. Whether it was a visit to a world where love lasts forever, even with a few bumps along the way, or one where, even if the night is full of fevered dreams of love lost and the light of day spells more pain, there is solace in the song.

Working with a tight five-piece band, Legend has the gift of being smooth without ever seeming overly slick — there is too much soul in his voice and sly excitement in his demeanor — as he grooved at his piano or shimmied alongside his back-up singer/dancers.

The set list included a healthy dose from his latest album “Love in the Future,” including the elegantly anguished “Dreams” and the sweetly vulnerable “You and I (Nobody in the World).”

Legend also made sure to load up on old favorites for hearty singalongs, including the buoyant “Save Room” and the jittery dance jam “Green Light.”

Legend also dipped into other songbooks, floating his way through the Luther Vandross classic “Never Too Much” and playing a slowed, solo piano version of “Dancing in the Dark” by Bruce Springsteen, to which the Boss has given the thumbs up.

The singer-songwriter joked that the crowd was in such a good mood because of the Red Sox’ impending World Series appearance and noted he was glad his gig wasn’t a scheduling conflict.

“I want to thank Major League Baseball for having mercy on my show,” he said with a laugh.

Sarah Rodman can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @GlobeRodman.
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