The 12th season of ‘Live From the Artists Den’ premieres this week, and Variety is exclusively premiering John Legend’s performance of “Penthouse Floor” (from his most recent album, “Darkness and Light”), which is featured in the first installment. (The series premieres on Thursday night at 9 p.m. in New York, and Saturday at 6:30 p.m. PT in Los Angeles; additional airings can be found at http://artistsden.com/johnlegend.)
Legend’s performance was recorded live at the Riverside Church in New York City’s Harlem neighborhood. The intention was to unite an artist and a venue both dedicated to using their pulpit to convey a message of justice, hope and peace. The Riverside Church, which opened in 1930, was the site of Martin Luther King, Jr.’s historic “Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence” speech.
“I grew up playing in the church, so when I come back to the church, I feel a sense of nostalgia and connection that is really at the core of who I am as an artist,” Legend said of the performance. “Especially with [his latest album ‘Darkness and Light’], which I think draws from my gospel roots in a significant way, it means a lot to me to perform here.” Also during the episode, Legend explains his activism in the community and history’s influence on his music.
“John Legend’s episode perfectly encapsulates the magic of the Artists Den series,” said “Artists Den” creator Mark Lieberman. “John chose the Riverside Church as the setting to perform his new album for the first time and talked on and off stage about the state of our society, how music moves us forward and where we can find deeper meaning in it all. There is something for everyone in this season premiere, it feels great to have John join us and give the world such a unique side of himself on our stage.”
Along with Legend, this season of the show, which specializes in presenting artists performing in non-conventional settings, features OneRepublic, Lady Antebellum, and Fleet Foxes performing in intimate venues ranging from the mountains of Utah to a historic theatre in New York’s Washington Heights.
Over the years the show has featured Adele, Alabama Shakes, Ed Sheeran, Imagine Dragons, Sara Bareilles, The Killers, Zac Brown Band, and Hozier. Featured venues have included Graceland, a 1930s silent movie theater, the world’s oldest merchant sailing vessel, the New York Public Library and the Metropolitan Museum of Art.