Leon Bridges, born in Atlanta, raised in Texas, returned to his birth city for the second time this year as he continues his rise to the top. First playing a sold out show at Eddie’s Attic back in March, right as the first singles off of his debut album, Coming Home (June 2015 Columbia Records) were starting to make noise. Leon was still quite new to playing sold out gigs. Heck not that long ago he was washing dishes at a Fort Worth bar. But here was Leon Bridges with Bowery South bringing him to a larger venue, Variety Playhouse in Little Five Points, sold out again, months in advance. And right before this show occurred, a March 1st show at the Tabernacle was just announced, another Leon Bridges show sure to sell out (TICKETS), this time even bigger. You see Leon Bridges is one of the hottest artists around these days. And for good reason.
Some have recently questioned whether Bridges’ revivalist return to the great soul legends of the past, like Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, was good for music today? Are we not taking a step forward? Really? Bridges himself admits he is pulling from the past (quite obvious) but as he told the National Post “It’s more than that. It’s very evident that I’m pulling from the past but I’m a singer-songwriter. It’s more than writing flashy, cliche soul songs. They’re truth: songs about family and life. It’s very clear that it’s “classic” music more than revivalist.” This isn’t some made for radio concoction by a major label, they are too focused on adding hooks to the same few 90’s swedish pop beats (Studio 360).
After a chance meeting with Austin Jenkins of White Denim, the two set out to record Bridges songs using vintage equipment. Once completed, Bridges managers shopped the album as a “take it or leave it” project, which Columbia obliged (Chicago Tribune).
It’s authentic, the music revisits the past, bringing to light the sounds of the greats, but it’s still Leon Bridges, not a Sam Cooke cover. The great thing about music today is we have access to loads of it, all different styles, from experimental to plenty of revivalist projects around the world, there is something for everyone. But this isn’t just another dude in a club trying to relive the past, Leon Bridges has hit here, nailing it by surrounding himself with great musicians, strong songwriting, and that tender voice.
Leon Bridges music is uniting, and there is always going to be a place for that. Just look at this sold out show at Variety Playhouse. It was a mix of everyone there; different races, hippies, hipsters, Urban Outfitter hipsters, old, young, all there to see something fresh, but something old. When Bridges asked “Where my Brown Skin girls at?” before going into his song “Brown Skin Girl”, the crowd cheered loudly throughout. The crowd was there to celebrate a look into their elders music, or relive that time. It almost had the feel that instead of being the Variety Playhouse, we were right in the middle of the 50’s at the Euclid Theatre, from Leon’s fashion style and dancing on stage, to some modernized throwback styles scattered throughout the audience, to all the dancing, grooving and jiving, to the sweet sweet sounds of a real rhythm section.
While Bridges has blown up at an accelerated rate, he is still getting used to the larger stage, larger audience, but it’s clear he is getting more comfortable on the stage, controlling the audience more, letting out the inner dancer more and more, bringing his loving crowd on the journey with him. If you look closely, you can still see that hint of nervousness, that young singer songwriter getting used to his popularity. It’s a redeeming quality, that just adds to authenticity that is Leon Bridges. Leon added during the show: “When I first started this thing, I was scared of getting on stages and playing for y’all, I was thinking, is there anyway I can play on FaceTime??”
Now look at him, the sold out audience was in sync with Leon and his band all night long. They had the crowd going crazy during “Smooth Sailing”, killed it with the horn solo during the smooth “Lisa Sawyer”, wowed the crowd with “Coming Home”, slowed it down to just the beauty with “Shine”, and got the crowd “Twistin’ & Groovin'” all night. Bridges and band closed down their set with a little gospel of “River”, cementing the crowds affinity for this man and his music. But that wasn’t it, the band came back out to let the party roll for one more song with “Mississippi Kisses”.
Leon Bridges is the real deal. And he has the chance to create a new classic with his own legacy while he’s at it. He is still growing and coming into his own, and we are excited to see where he goes from here. The bar has been set high, and it’s all at his fingertips. Be sure to get your tickets for Leon Bridges tour in your city, the venues are only getting bigger from here.
Watch Leon Bridges perform “Shine”:
Clip of “River”:
26 — Columbus, OH @ Newport Music Hall
27 — Chicago, IL @ The Vic Theatre
28 — Minneapolis, MN @ First Avenue
30 — Englewood, CO @ Gothic Theatre
2 — Seattle, WA @ Neptune Theatre
3 — Vancouver, BC @ Commodore Ballroom
6 — San Diego, CA @ North Park Theater
9 — Los Angeles, CA @ The Fonda Theatre
13 — Houston, TX @ House of Blues
14 — Dallas, TX @ Majestic Theatre
Leon Bridges Tour Dates 2016
March 1 Atlanta, GA—The Tabernacle
March 2 Nashville, TN—Ryman Auditorium
March 4 Baltimore, MD—Hippodrome
March 5 Boston, MA—The Wang Theatre
March 6 Philadelphia, PA—The Fillmore
March 9 New York, NY—Beacon Theatre
March 10 Toronto, ON—Massey Hall
March 11 Chicago, IL—Chicago Theatre
March 12 Milwaukee, WI—Riverside Theatre
March 15 Vancouver, BC—Orpheum Theatre
March 17 Oakland, CA—Fox Theater
March 18 Santa Barbara, CA—Arlington Theatre
March 19 Los Angeles, CA—The Wiltern
May 23 Tulsa, OK—Cain’s Ballroom*
May 25 Denver, CO—Paramount Theatre*
May 26 Salt Lake city, UT—The Depot*
May 28 Portland, OR—Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall*
May 30 Boise, ID—Egyptian Theatre*
June 1 Papillon, NE—Sumtur Amphitheater*
June 3 Pittsburgh, PA—Stage AE*
June 8 St. Louis, MO—The Pageant*
June 9 Louisville, KY—Brown Theatre*
(*) w/ Andra Day
More photos of Leon Bridges:
Photos and Review by Mike Gerry