As mentioned in Part 1, I recently spent a couple nights on the Strip during which I enjoyed both dinner and a show.  The second night found me at Planet Hollywood, where I joined some friends for dinner at Strip House, followed by the opening night of John Legend: Love in Las Vegas, in the Zappos Theater.

As well-known for its bordello-like décor as its mouth-watering steaks, Strip House—the Las Vegas outpost of the award-winning New York restaurants of the same name—is a treat for the tastebuds and the eyes, alike.  Featuring a flattering lighting story and deep-crimson walls covered in original prints of burlesque stars from the 1930s by Studio Manasse—the Vienna-based photography studio founded by Olha and Adorjan Wlassics in the early 1920s renowned for capturing the beauty of the sexually confident “new woman”—Strip House's atmosphere is at once old-school and erotically charged.

But if folks come for the ambiance, they stay for the fare; especially the steaks, with their deep flavor that comes from being grilled with the restaurant’s signature salt-and-pepper crust.  Steering clear of beef, these days?  The Jumbo Lump Crab Cake (with seasonal kimchi and chipotle aioli) was fantastic, as was the Iceberg Salad (with heirloom cherry tomatoes, bacon lardons, radish, pickled red onion, and a zesty bleu cheese dressing).  And the Goose Fat Potatoes are not to be missed.  As for the steak, as great as that salt-and-pepper crust is on the NY Strip when topped with a healthy dollop of Garlic Butter, it’s downright epic.  (My arteries are still sore!)

After our coffee, we moseyed over to the Zappos Theater, where the multi-talented artist, activist, and EGOT, John Legend, was debuting his first Las Vegas residency, John Legend: Love in Las Vegas.  Following such lavishly produced and exquisitely executed Live Nation Las Vegas-presented residency shows as Jennifer Lopez: All I Have (2016-2018), and Gwen Stefani: Just a Girl (2018-2021), John Legend: Love in Las Vegas is so well done that when, upon leaving the theater, I wasn't at all surprised to hear multiple people saying that they couldn’t wait to go see it, again (a sentiment with which I concur, wholeheartedly).  And let’s face it, that “go-back-ability” factor is vital to the success of any residency show that intends to stick around for multiple runs. *

John Legend is one of those rare talents who appeals to an incredibly large swath of concert-goers, whether they be fans of pop, rhythm and blues, adult contemporary, soul, ballads, bangers, or good old-fashioned love songs.  I first met Legend in 2008, at a dinner thrown by Amy Sacco at her New York restaurant, Bette, celebrating the launch of Shine, the first US album for the English songbird, Estelle (that Legend had executive produced), and the drop of her massively successful duet “American Boy” with Kanye West (that Legend had conceived and co-written).  After dinner, Sacco invited Legend and Estelle to join us at Bungalow 8, where she was hosting my 35th birthday party.  The two arrived a short while later, and enjoyed the party; later standing and cheering after Jimmy James serenaded me with an a cappella version of Judy Garland’s “You Made Me Love You (I Didn’t Want to Do It)”. 

In the coming decade, I would run into Legend and Chrissy Teigen at a number of events around the country, beginning with Keep Memory Alive’s 16th annual Power of Love™ gala honoring Muhammad Ali’s 70th birthday (2012); a couple of months later, in New York, at the 13th annual Free Arts NYC Art Auction Benefit; then, back in Las Vegas, a few years later, when he headlined at the 3rd annual Cirque du Soleil-imagined One Night for ONE DROP gala (2015); and again, later, that year, at Wynn Las Vegas for Sinatra 100: An All-Star Grammy Concert.  And in case you had any doubt, the two have never been anything but charming, approachable, and really quite lovely.

Building on the themes of love and unity presented in his massively successful 2021 Bigger Love Tour (in support of his GRAMMY-winning album of the same name), John Legend: Love in Las Vegas finds Legend supported onstage by his full eleven-piece band, a trio of talented singers, and—for the first time—a team of eight dancers who really shine under the artistic direction and choreography of Jemel McWilliams.  And speaking of dancing, for a guy one tends to think of in a seated position (whether at the piano, on a stool in front of a microphone, or on a spinning chair with a big red button), John Legend is wonderfully light on his feet.

And if it’s all about the looks, for you, then get ready for an eye-full with the 91 ensembles that appear onstage throughout John Legend: Love in Las Vegas, each conceived and created by Legend’s brilliant longtime stylist, Dave Thomas, who collaborated on all of Legend’s looks and menswear with Richfresh—the luxury athleisure-cum-bespoke tailoring house founded by celebrity-tailor Fresh (née Patrick Henry), in 2018, that’s become a go-to for everyone from Steph Curry, Stevie Wonder, Justin Bieber, Lena Waithe, Charlemagne tha God, Reese Witherspoon, Niecy Nash, and Deion Sanders, and Dwayne Wade, and was worn by the musicians supporting Eminem, Dr. Dre, Snoop Dogg, Anderson. Paak, et al, during the Pepsi Super Bowl LVI Halftime Show—imbuing the array of styles with a vivid vibrancy. **

Of course, it’s the musician’s repertoire that informs these residencies, and Love in Las Vegas finds Legend performing such popular hits as “Used to Love U” (his debut single from 2004, co-written and co-produced by Kanye West), “Green Light” (Legend’s upbeat, horn-filled, electro-funk club banger from 2008 that featured Andre 3000), “Like I’m Gonna Lose You” (Meghan Trainor's 2015 hit on which Legend provided guest vocals), “Penthouse Floor” (Legend’s 2016 duet with Chance the Rapper that rallies against MAGA-world’s exclusive vision of the American Dream), and, of course, what’s become his signature song, “All of Me” (Legend’s GRAMMY-nominated musical love-letter to wife Chrissy Teigen from 2013, that became his first Number 1 hit in the US).  Further, he has been performing as yet released songs from his upcoming album, including “Dope”—which will be released on May 20—a song Legend wrote in collaboration with Charlie Puth, that the two recently performed á la dualling-pianos, at the 2022 iHeartRadio Music Awards.  If audience reaction is anything to believe, “Dope,” like everything else Legend does, is gonna be a hit!

Tickets and VIP packages to John Legend: Love in Las Vegas are on sale now, for shows through October 29.  So, what’re you waiting for?

Strip House Steak | John Legend: Love in Las Vegas
Planet Hollywood Las Vegas Resort & Hotel
Click HERE for info

Get into it!

[Editor’s Notes: * When Jesus Christ Superstar Live in Concert won the 2018 Primetime Emmy Award for “Outstanding Variety Special (Live),” it made EGOTs of three of its executive producers, John Legend, Andrew Lloyd Webber, and Tim Rice // ** A 1988 grant-recipient from the Prince’s Trust, pioneering celebrity stylist, Dave Thomas, rose quickly through the ranks, becoming the world’s youngest fashion editor in 1991 (at age 25) for British Esquire; then the youngest in the US, the following year, for Esquire Gentleman; later contributing his sartorial savvy to the pages of L’Uomo Vogue, Interview, Vanity Fair and British GQ.  Thomas has styled a veritable who’s who of Las Vegas headliners including Lionel Richie, Sting, Usher, Harry Connick, Jr., Barry Manilow, Britney Spears, Liza Minnelli, David Guetta, Calvin Harris, and (of course) John Legend.  Thomas’s innately wearable ready-to-wear men’s capsule collection, David Thomas X, was launched last spring, with its second “drop” (available now) coinciding with the Holiday release of his gorgeous coffee table book, Vanity Project: A Tale of Fashion and Celebrity Styled by Dave Thomas (2021), that features a foreword by HRH The Prince of Wales, an introduction by Lionel Richie, and an afterword by John Legend.] 

Bobby Hebb’s 1966 soul-jazz standard, SUNNY, remains one of the most performed songs of all time. Here are some of my favorite cover versions [Part 2 of 2]