Singer-songwriter Ryan Leslie gave a stellar performance for lovers at Irving Plaza in New York City on Valentine’s Day. The R&B star has long been one of the more quietly gifted artists in popular music, and the Harvard-educated multi-instrumentalist rapper-singer gave fans yet another reminder as to how staggeringly talented he truly is. And with his “Les Is More” Tour pulling into Union Square for a night of rocking, rhythm and romance, Leslie again made his case for “most underrated artist in R&B.”
Opening act Salomon Faye proved to be a worthy warm-up for the crowd, taking the stage with Insane the Rebel (and brandishing a phallic sword with the word “LOVE” carved into the blade), and superproducer Hit-Boy of G.O.O.D. Music showcased his upcoming solo work and ran through a bevy of mega-hit tracks that he’s produced over the past year—including A$AP Rocky’s “Goldie” and “1 Train,” Kendrick Lamar’s “Backseat Freestyle” and the Kanye West and Jay-Z Grammy-winning smash “N—as In Paris.”
Leslie took the stage around 10pm and proceeded to run through his discography—a mix of romantic smooth R&B and bravado-filled rap. From “Diamond Girl” to the obviously-appropriate “Valentine” from his debut album, cuts like “To the Top” and “Never Gonna Break Up” from his sophomore project Transition and several tracks from his most recent album, Les Is More, Leslie gave fans and newbies a packed show. With his band in top-form, and the star himself rapping, singing, playing the keys and even briefly handling drumming, no one in the room was disappointed in the show.
The unexpected highlight came late in the evening when Leslie brought out NYC native Fabolous to rap over their hit single “You Killin’ Em,” as well as “Beautiful Lie” and “Addiction.”
Adding to the romantic vibe of the evening, the audience was treated to a fan pulling his girlfriend onstage during Leslie’s encore and, as the star softly played the keyboard, asking for her hand in marriage. She accepted, of course, much to the approval of the crowd.
Ryan Leslie showed once again why he’s beloved among those who know his work. And after his set, as the crowds filed out into the winter night, he was greeted backstage by none other than pop icon, Madonna. When the Queen of Pop is one of your biggest fans, you don’t have to prove anything to anyone.
– stereo williams