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John Legend during his performance at the Coca Cola Arena, Dubai. Photo: Antonin Kélian Kallouche/Gulf News Image Credit:

The true benchmark of a successful concert is not calculated by counting crowds or how the performer interacted (or didn’t) with the audience, but rather how fans took to the music.

Twenty minutes into John Legend’s set at Dubai’s Coca-Cola Arena, the 41-year-old had lovers, friends and strangers requesting a dance with their neighbours. Another few tracks later, a declaration of love “for the one you’re with” firmly echoed through the stadium.

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John Legend during his performance at the Coca Cola Arena, Dubai. Photo: Antonin Kélian Kallouche/Gulf News

For one lucky fan, who identified herself as Sharon, the night took an exceptional turn as Legend invited her on stage midway through his gig for a dance, “with the permission of my wife, of course,” joked the singer.

As lucky Sharon capped her few minutes of fame taking a selfie with Legend, her parting words also duly informed the artist that she followed his wife Chrissy Teigen on social media.

“I love how she said, she follows my wife. But not me,” responded Legend to roaring laughter. “This is the story of my life.”

While Teigen’s banter on Twitter is the stuff of legends, Legend is hardly a bystander. The 11-time Grammy winner, who has also won an Emmy, an Oscar and a Tony Award for his music (one of only 15 people in the world to do so), found himself on the cover of People magazine as the ‘World’s Sexiest Man Alive’. Although, his return to the UAE stage — having last performed here at the 2018 Dubai Jazz Festival — is only after he won his fetching new title.

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John Legend during his performance at the Coca Cola Arena, Dubai. Photo: Antonin Kélian Kallouche/Gulf News

The January 31 DSF concert also saw the artist return to these shores mere days after his touching performance at the Grammy Awards with DJ Khaled. A sliver of that emotional tribute to slain rapper Nipsey Hussle opened the night in Dubai as the first chord of ‘Higher’ played out. Hussle was killed last year after being shot outside a clothing store in Los Angeles.

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John Legend during his performance at the Coca Cola Arena, Dubai. Photo: Antonin Kélian Kallouche/Gulf News

With a promise to give the “best night” to fans in Dubai, Legend soon took things up a notch belting out a string of hits including ‘Tonight (Best You Ever Had)’, ’Penthouse Floor’, ‘Love Me Now’, ‘Overload’ and ‘Used to Love U’.

Legend kept up the banter, encouraging fans to fill the stadium with love as he performed ‘Like I’m Gonna Lose You’, his collaboration with Meghan Trainor. But the night really came into its own when the singer performed ‘Ordinary People’, his Grammy-winning track from the 2004 album ‘Get Lifted’. Legend implored fans to draw inspiration from his song at a time when the world was falling apart, during a month that has been spelled death and devastation in the news cycle.

Legend’s words resonated through the arena as fans joined in to sing along with passion. Love was in the air as Legend paid tribute to the ones he holds close as visuals of Teigen and his daughter Luna flashed on the screen behind him during ‘You and I’, before calling it a night with his latest track, ‘Conversations in the Dark’.

Minutes later, the now expected encore performance saw Legend return to his grand piano in the 90-minute set to play two of his biggest hits, ‘All of Me’ and the Civil Rights anthem, ’Glory’. As the night wound down and we returned to the realities of life and more pressing matters such as escaping the arena traffic, Legend’s final words continued to carry us through the night — “And we’ll fight on to the finish, then when it’s all done, we’ll cry glory, oh glory.”