Leon Bridges is an American musician who has brought soul and blues back to the mainstream music scene. Bridges was born in Fort Worth, Texas and shot to popularity after the release of his first studio album ‘Coming Home’ in 2015. His album reached number 6 on the US Billboard Chart and was nominated for a Grammy for ‘Best R&B Album’.
In February 2018, Bridges announced he was revisiting Australia for Bluesfest Byron Bay, with only two sideshows in Sydney and Melbourne. This was a long awaited return to Australia, after having previously visited over two years ago in 2015/16 for Falls Festival. Bluesfest and the two sideshows were going to be his last shows in Australia before the release of his new album ‘Good Thing’ in May.
On Sunday March 25th, Bridges played a sold out show at the Forum Melbourne. His supporting act Thando, a Zimbabwean born, Melbourne based musician, opened the show with a performance that was all about her powerful voice, perfectly setting up the audience for the soulful sound of Bridges.
He began the show with the song ‘Smooth Sailin”, the fourth track on his first album. This song is the perfect example of the retro blues sound that he has made current and popular today. And it was performed even better than the recorded track. The crowd was then transported to a dance club circa 1960, with his upbeat song ‘Twistin and Groovin’. There was no one in the crowd standing still. Everyone was dancing. Bridges, having previously studied dance, was a master with the moves on stage. His dancing, partnered with his faultless voice, made everyone in the crowd swoon.
The performance of the gospel-like song ‘River’, was a highlight of the night with the soulful and deep vocals capturing the audience into silence. Rarely these days do you go to concerts or performances where the crowd is silent, with just the pure sound of the artist. It felt incredibly special to be able to experience that moment. The song features the voice of Brittni Jessie, who also performed alongside Bridges and who’s vocals were just as captivating as Bridges himself.
During the set he performed a few new songs off his upcoming album including ‘Bad Bad News’ and ‘Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand’. Both songs were received well by the audience and showed Bridges’ range in genre, with the songs being a slight change from the old-school music off his first album.
The crowd was a mix of all demographics. There were people as young as 18 (18+ event) and people who looked like they could be in their late 50’s. And the biggest thing I took away from the crowd, was the fact that phones or cameras were not an issue. I think this impacted hugely on whether or not people fully enjoyed the performance, because there were no distractions, everyone was able to truly experience the concert the way it should’ve have been experienced.
The only negative that could be considered from the night, was the fact that Bridges only played a set of 80 minutes. Considering the tickets were $92 each, you would hope for at least a 90 minute performance. But nevertheless, that 80 minute set was unforgettable and in this instance I believe that quality was more important than the quantity.
‘Good Thing’ will be released on May 4th and if the songs he debuted on the night are any indication of what the album will be like, then I look forward to hopefully seeing his return to Australia for his ‘Good Thing’ tour.