Leon Bridges, along with Son Little, made the audience of a sold out Riverside theater swoon at songs of love, life and hope this past Saturday, March 12.
Opening with “The River,” Son Little got the tempo going and concertgoers clapping along in their seats. As he played “O Mother,” the room was eased into a mellow and smooth experience. I felt like I was sitting out on a Sunday morning, drinking coffee and reading the morning paper, basking in morning sun rays, feeling content.
Aaron Livingston, lead singer of his band, used his emotional and raspy voice to take you from a sun soaked terrace to a hidden, smoke filled blues bar. “Loser Blues” made your heart ache with the same pain that has inspires blues singers for decades.
Aside from the heartfelt vocals by Livingston, his lead guitarist was dedicated and intimate during each guitar solo. Livingston also gave an acapella opening to “Lay Down,” singing passionately alongside single echoing notes of the guitar while his voice was ebbing and flowing past each person.
Livingston was an excellent choice for an opener, a calmed performer in his own right. His sound is distinct and unique, something you have to appreciate for style and swagger.
Of course, the main show of the night was famous and adored Leon Bridges. A Grammy nominee, Brdiges brings an energetic and eccentric twist to soul music. Stepping out on a grey suit with a striking red tie, Bridges was ready to put on a performance.
Without taking his time with fluff or a monologue, Bridges’ break out song of the night was “Smooth Sailing,” getting the crowd on their feet and rushing to grab a dance partner. While watching Bridges, he bops and sways his body in a classic 1950’s swing dance fashion.
Noticeably, Bridges wasn’t the only talented singer on stage. His back up vocalist Brittni Jessie had an angelic voice that echoed and complemented Bridges’ sweet, southern lyrics. Along with electric plucks of the guitar, Bridges’ band employed tambourines to keep the beat and a smooth, honey-slow saxophone. With all the instruments coming together, it was hard to not start trotting along with the music.
As the night continued, Bridges and his band switched the moods from enthusiastic powerhouse to swaying melodies back to a hopping jazz club. After each song, roaring applause filled the venue, whistles, cheers and screams vibrated the walls.
“I just wanna say thank you and I appreciate that,” there was no time for talking for Bridges as this was the first thing he said all night. Scooting right along, him and his band got back into the rhythm of their performance.
“Brown Skin Girl” had the audience wishing they had their own girl, someone they love almost as much as Bridges’ does his muse. The most enthralling sax solo goes to the song “Lisa Sawyer,” the lead saxophonist got me feeling like Bill Clinton was on stage, strange and prominent, creating a mystical and mysterious aura over the place.
Life would not have been complete if Bridges’ didn’t offer up some new music for his adoring fans. “Pussy Footin’” got the crown hyped more than a kid in a candy shop. It was thrilling and fast, having people imagining “back to the good times,” a reminiscent lyric familiar to everyone in the crowd craving for the romanticized version of someone.
Leon Bridges creates a freeness everyone can relate to, something that you inherently know to have fun with and enjoy. If he weren’t a singer, he could definitely have a career as a dancer, with a limber, long and stringy body and the enthusiasm of a renewed youngin. He claps his hands, snaps his fingers and jerks is lanky body in every direction with the spirit of Elvis’s pelvic thrust.
Finishing up the night, Bridges’ declares, “I barely left my front porch before all this. Can I thank y’all for all this support?” He’s genuine and sincere, connecting to every member of his band and every person in the venue. “It isn’t just about me, it’s all of us together,” and the building explodes with happiness, creating an overwhelming affection for this southern boy. As the crowd woops and hollers, he can’t help but to try and hide a shy chuckle, saying, “I was trying to see if this was the best night of the show… it definitely is.” As the show ended, Bridges’ closed the night with an encore “River,” mellowing out the energized crowd of Leon lovers. Not wanting to say goodbye, but ultimately having to, Leon and his band wrap arms around each other and take a final bow, wishing a good night to the crowd and throwing up his classic peace sign.