Leon Bridges’ Bright Talent Continues to RiseJune 24th, 2015
Leon Bridges – The Bowery Ballroom – June 23, 2015
Some voices sound timeless, and it’s no surprise folks have been clamoring about Leon Bridges’ transcendent quality. Popular comparisons to Sam Cooke abound, however the 25 year old from Fort Worth, Texas, not only channels the Motown sounds of yesteryear but also manages to give faithful nods to his predecessors. I am personally skeptical when anyone is compared to Cooke, but NPR’s Ann Powers put it best about the young talent: “Imagination is the key element that makes Bridges’ rapid ascent more than a novelty.” On the heels of the release of his long-awaited debut album, Coming Home, Bridges played the first of two sold-out New York City shows last night at The Bowery Ballroom.
The Texan’s flair was thick in the balmy air as his drummer and guitarist (White Denim’s Josh Block and Austin Jenkins, respectively, each a producer on Coming Home) plopped onstage wearing cowboy hats. After a quick introduction from background singer Brittni Jessie, Bridges began with “Better Man.” “Feeling good?” he asked the excited audience. Little commentary was provided during the set apart from the influence of family on his songs, “Twistin’ & Groovin’,” about how his grandparents met, in addition to the maternally dedicated “Lisa Sawyer.”
As Bridges alternated between hands clasped behind his back and raised above his shoulders, his mannerisms were very much on point for the ’60s era. He reminded me of other throwback artists like Raphael Saadiq and Mayer Hawthorne, who have certainly mastered showmanship, but Bridges, still young, should definitely blossom with more performances. The recent expansion of his 2015 tour will no doubt provide room to grow. Although Bridges played most of his album, he treated folks to gems that were left off, “In My Arms” and a song dedicated to a friend’s dog, “Daisy Mae,” plus an admirable cover of Lauryn Hill’s “Ex Factor.” Playing guitar, Bridges closed with a stunning, seated rendition of “River” accompanied just by Ms. Jessie providing exceptional harmonies. It was a fitting end for a very bright talent. —Sharlene Chiu