John Legend’s ‘All Of Me’ Manila concert: 10 highlights

Ryan Macasero

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John Legend’s ‘All Of Me’ Manila concert: 10 highlights
Here are 10 of the most memorable moments from John Legend's Manila concert

MANILA, Philippines – There are 16,500 seats in the Smart Araneta Coliseum, but leave it to R&B and soul singer John Legend to give thousands of concert goers a very up-close and intimate experience. 

Legend was here 5 years ago, but at a very different place in his career. Since then he’s won 3 more Grammy Awards (for a total of 9) and has sold a total of 7.7 million albums worldwide. He arrived in Manila on September 24 for his packed concert at the Smart Araneta Coliseum on September 26. (READ: John Legend arrives in Manila for PH concert

His concert posters promised an “intimate, acoustic and stripped down show.” His band was small; there were no dancers and no theatrics – just music. 

Here are 10 of the most memorable moments from R&B star John Legend’s Manila concert:

1. Returning to roots

Before Legend became an international R&B superstar, he started his career in the corporate world as a management consultant for Boston Consulting Group (BCG). (READ: John Legend: Soul, love and gospel music

He began telling us the story of how he got his break.

“I was working with Powerpoint presentations and Excel spreadsheets. Very sexy work,” Legend joked. “But at night I would go to the studio,” he said – to pursue a music career.

His first commercial break was playing the piano for fellow American R&B singer/rapper Lauryn Hill on her 1999 Grammy-nominated song “Everything is Everything.”  But despite that break, it would take several more years before Legend would see success as a solo artist. 

He admitted during the concert that it was when he began working with rapper Kanye West, where he would sing the hooks on West’s songs, that would give him his big break. 

His debut single was “Used To Love U”:

The rest was history. 

He plays the hook of “Selfish” here: 

2. Maxine

Filipinos love a good Bossa Nova tune. The one sung by John, “Maxine,” is a sexy song, but with a dirty meaning. Maxine is a girl who would cheat on her man. He joked that a family member was happy when they heard the song Maxine because it was his grandmother’s name. “I don’t think they listened to the lyrics very well.” 

3. On writing music

Legend writes a lot of his own songs. He can sing about everything from God to love, heartbreak to problems plaguing society. He explains, “I write the melody and sing in jibberish, then I decide what I want to say.” 

He shows the audience how “Again” from his album Once Again sounded before it had words.

4. Public Displays of Affection

Public Display of Affection (PDA) is often frowned upon. But Legend says, “sometimes you just can’t help it” – something that resonated well with his Filipino audience. Cheer erupted as soon as he started banging out the song. It’s no surprise why. Some forms of PDA are very common in the Philippines, home of the haranas, love songs and teleseryes.

Here’s a clip of the 2006 single “PDA (We Just Don’t Care)” from his album Once Again


5. Michael Jackson tribute

While Legend’s roots may be in gospel and soul, he took the time to pay tribute to the King of Pop Michael Jackson. He didn’t need an intricate musical set-up to get everyone to dance.

6. Small band set-up 

SMALL BAND. Legend's band only consisted of a 4-piece string quartet, a guitarist, bassist and a drummer

There were no dancers, no fireworks and no gimmicks. His band set-up was modest. He only had a 4-member string quartet, a lead guitarist, a bassist, a drummer, and he played the piano. 

7. “Save Room” stripped down 

This song showed what he meant by acoustic and unplugged. The studio version of the 2006 song “Save Room” has a sexy bass line and an infectious hook and is a favorite song to cover among many YouTube artists. He performed the song without any other instruments except the piano. 

8. “Bridge Over Troubled Water”

It was the most emotional moment of the show. Legend talked about how he grew up singing in church and learning to play piano from his grandmother, who taught him how to play gospel music. “A lot of what you’re hearing tonight is my grandmother through me,” he said. 

His cover of the 1970s Simon & Garfunkel song “Bridge Over Troubled Water” brought many to tears. 

9. Green light

Another audience favorite was “Green Light” from his 2008 album Evolver (Originally with André 3000 of Outkast.

10. Early ending

As Legend seemed to be ending the show, fans were feeling like they were left hanging. What was missing? He left without singing the song that the tour is named after “All Of Me.” The arena shouted “all of me” in unison, telling Legend to come back. Of course he was kidding, he returned and gave his fans a real finale.  

After the show, Legend posted this photo on his official Instagram account.

Were you at the concert? Share your experience and thoughts in the comments below. –

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Ryan Macasero

Ryan covers social welfare for Rappler. He started at Rappler as social media producer in 2013, and later took on various roles for the company: editor for the #BalikBayan section, correspondent in Cebu, and general assignments reporter in the Visayas region. He graduated from California State University, East Bay, with a degree in international studies and a minor in political science. Outside of work, Ryan performs spoken word poetry and loves attending local music gigs. Follow him on Twitter @ryanmacasero or drop him leads for stories at