John Legend is The Box. Or at least that was the prevailing view during his private performance for SCENE magazine at the infamous venue last night.
“There’s nowhere like the box,” Mercedes Pulido, president of Vendôme Macaron, said as a gymnast danced in a hoop suspended above the bar, between chandeliers and vintage pornography.
The assembled guests looked on avidly, waiting with bated breath for the evening’s performance, sipping on the plentiful beverages supplied by sponsors Grey Goose and Heineken.
“I hope she gets a break,” Trish Goodwin , Corcoran broker and wife of artist Ryan McGinness, told us.
“What I love about The Box is that’s it intimate,” added her husband. “It’s just like John Legend.”
The Box is not the largest venue in the world, but the exclusive guest list managed to fill it out sufficiently, giving the evening a cozy feel, increased only by the romantic lighting. The venue bills itself as “A Theater of Varieties” and is known for putting on extravagant burlesque routines for a usually hedonistic crowd.
“It’s dark and sexy and the curtains are extravagant!” exclaimed a nearby woman as we waited. “John is just as sexy as The Box.”
The comparison was a common one. It was hard to move without someone comparing the nine-time Grammy award winning recording artist to the sultry and enigmatic Lower East Side club.
Before long, we were able to see for ourselves as Peter Davis, editor of SCENE took the mic to announce Mr. Legend’s arrival, and thanked sponsors Town Residential.
“So, you know, buy a house.”
As soon as he stepped down the thick velvet curtains onstage opened, revealing a grand piano bathed in purple light, soon accompanied by Mr. Legend himself, wrapped in a leather jacket and armed with a winning smile.
Without saying a word, the singer went straight into his first song, the title track of his new album, Love In The Future, that he’d come to show off.
Following his opener, Mr. Legend revealed that most of the songs were, unsurprisingly, about his fiancée, the model Chrissy Teigen.
“I guess you’re supposed to get nervous before you get married,” he began. “But I feel good, I don’t know.”
He then segued into another new track aptly titled The Beginning (featuring a sample by Sarah Bareilles “Because why not?”).
“Last night was the last night we’ll ever spend alone,” he sung, tenderly and ominously, leading swiftly into the second line. “Couldn’t wait, we did it in the living room.”
A ripple of laughter busied itself around the assembled crowd, confirming everyone’s association. John Legend may very well be The Box. When it comes down to it, both are synonymous with beauty, class, and above all, sex.
“Chrissy played this one for her parents and said ‘Hey, John wrote this about me’. I wrote a few songs on this album about her. She was a little embarrassed when we got to the second line. Her mom and dad must have a bit of a tolerance for sexy R&B songs now.”
With the audience entirely under his spell, Mr. Legend proceeded to weave together old and new tracks, mostly along the theme of lovemaking, including the entrancing new single All Of Me. Oprah, he told us, recently declared it the “wedding song of all time.”
Mr. Legend treated the crowd to a variety of melodies, ending, of course, on his biggest hit, Ordinary People, after which he let us in on a little secret about the dreamy ballad.
“Will.i.am and I originally wrote this as a chorus for the Black Eyed Peas, to do a hip hop song. Obviously that didn’t happen. We were in the studio. I said Will, let me keep this chorus. The final version that you hear is actually just the rough demo I sent Will, thinking he was going to reproduce it.”
Asked about the fact that everyone had been declaring the similarities between himself and the venue, he laughed.
“It was funny, we just shot a commercial here a couple of months ago with Made to Love in it,” he said.
Even if he may not actually be The Box, during the evening Mr. Legend showed that in terms of sophistication, style and performance, they’re pretty darn close.