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The vintage soul of Leon Bridges– is indeed, a very good thing

 By Cameron Lee

April 12, 2019

It’s hard to believe Leon Bridges is only 29 years old. His signature high-waisted pants, vintage style and straightforward ‘60s soul sounds are invigorating in today’s music landscape. His voice now reaches a much broader audience, touring steadily and playing some of the premier music festivals across the country. Oh, and he also recently won a Grammy.

Charlotte’s Music Factory had a calm buzz as the clear skies and cool breeze brought a wide range of music lovers toting blankets and lawn chairs in anticipation of spring’s first major outdoor concert. The lines were unusually long and the mood was animated as thousands prepared for an evening of captivating music from the Fort Worth, Texas singer and his band.

Leon Bridges. Photo: Alvin C. Jacobs

As Bridges’ talented band hit the stage fit with multiple guitarists, keys and two of the best backing singers in the business, they started strumming the first notes to “If It Feels Good.” Bridges strutted on stage to a resounding ovation as the funk-driven number got everyone immediately on their feet.

If Bridges’ rise to fame seems to have been a bit sudden back in 2015, it was. His undeniable skill crafting wholesome soul songs caught the attention of Austin Jenkins of the Austin-based band White Denim over a common appreciation of Wrangler jeans. Jenkins helped Bridges record a couple songs and released them on Soundcloud in 2014, and it was “Coming Home” that caught the attention of several local radio stations and eventually Columbia Records.  

Leon Bridges. Photo: Alvin C. Jacobs

The lights dimmed to a purple and blue hue as the smoke machines gave the audience a classic ‘70s era funk feel for “Bad Bad News.” Bridges energy matched the vibe as he leaned into his vocals and the mic with a composed bounce. His stage show and backing band hit their stride, as the instrumental interludes and audience interactions are reminiscent of a hip-hop show. Bridges’ who is an avid hip-hop fan, sauntered from one side of the stage to the other, asking for the audiences’ energy between songs. He’s definitely honed his skills as an excellent live performer over the past few years.

He’s accumulated a deep catalog of songs in a short period of time, keeping an astute audience captivated, transitioning from the rockabilly style “Mississippi Kisses”– which is actually about a girl he met in New Orleans– to an uptempo version of the fan favorite “Better Man,” as he proclaimed mid-song: “We got to treat our ladies right, you understand me.” If you’re expecting a Leon Bridges concert to sound just like the studio versions of his songs, then you might be disappointed. Like any great live performer, Bridges’ and his band groove in and out of songs with great instrumentation and ad-libs keep the energy free spirited and flowing.

Bridges’ style of music is often generalized as straight vintage soul, but the range of songs in his catalog embody the sounds of multiple genres from the ‘60s and ‘70s. From the moving love ballad “Mrs” to the surf-rock style “Smooth Sailin’,” a Leon Bridges concert is a celebration of the sounds of a simpler time. Where love songs and simple emotions were complex enough for us to collectively deal with and the idea of social media would sound absurd– and that’s indeed, a very good thing.

Setlist:

If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be)
Bad Bad News
Mississippi Kisses
Better Man
Shy
Coming Home
Beyond
Brown Skin Girl
Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand
Georgia to Texas
Forgive You
Lions
You Don’t Know
Lisa Sawyer
Hold On
Mrs.
Smooth Sailin’
Flowers

Encore:
River

Check out the remaining tour dates for Leon Bridges in 2019.

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