A little over three years ago I stumbled across a track called Coming Home by a little known artist (at the time) named Leon Bridges. I remember being immediately smitten by Bridges rich voice and throwback sound. He reminded me Sam Cooke and Otis Reddings and other greats I had only scratched the surface of in my musical exploration. That little two track “EP” featured Coming Home and Better Man, two tracks who somehow sounded both familiar and brand new all at the same time. Little did I know at the time that these songs would go on to top charts across the country. And I bargain to bet Bridges felt the same way. The Texas-based musician was working in restaurant kitchens’ when he eventually signed with Columbia Records. Shortly after stumbling across those tracks from Bridges I was lucky enough to catch him play an intimate show at a tiny venue in Hollywood called The Hotel Cafe. I remember taking a friend and fellow music lover and both us standing with jaws on the floor and goosebumps on our arms through Bridges entire set.
A lot has happened in the three plus years since Leon Bridges played that tiny room in The Hotel Cafe. Bridges has released two full length albums, had his songs featured in hit shows such as HBO’s Big Little Lies, toured with former One Directioner Harry Styles and is now playing back to back sold out shows at venues like The Palace Theater in St. Paul. But what is so amazing about this 29-year old is how he seems to stay so humble and modest despite being on what seems like nothing but an uphill trajectory.
Leon Bridges is currently on tour in support of his sophomore release Good Thing. Friday night was sold out night number two for Bridges at the Palace. And to say the breadth, depth and width of Leon Bridges talent was on full display would be an understatement.. Bridges’ set really highlighted how far this artist on the rise has come from those early days in venues like The Hotel Cafe. Bridges set on Friday showed that he’s no longer just that artist who sounds like the Same Cookes and Otis Reddings of the world – but has really establishment himself as an artist for today. Of course Bridges set still had his signature old school sound and vibe on tracks like the crooning, soulful Lisa Sawyer and Coming Home. But Bridges also showed his more R&B, dancey side on tracks like If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be) or his Miguel or Marvin Gaye bedroom-ready smooth soul side on tracks like Mrs. Bridges spent most of his set from out behind the guitar, dancing around stage and getting the crowd dancing and moving along. I would have loved to see Bridges behind the guitar more like he did during his encore – but it was fun to see the many other sides of Bridges and his ever growing and ever changing complexities as an artist. It’s been a wild three years for Bridges – he’s clearly grown and developed as an artist which was evident on Friday night. I think it’s safe to say I am not the only one who can’t wait to see what Leon Bridges does next.
Following his show at the Palace – Bridges jets out to Vegas for the iHeart festival before continuing his tour in Milwaukee.
Setlist: If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be)/ Bad Bad News / Better Man / Shy / Coming Home / Beyond / Ana / Georgia to Texas / Forgive You / Lions / You Don’t Know / Lisa Sawyer /Hold On / Brown Skin Girl / Mrs. / Smooth Sailin’ / Flowers / Encore: River / Mississippi Kisses
Opening up the evening was Houston, Texas-based trio Khruangbin. Laura Lee (bass), Mark Speer (guitar), Donald Johnson (drums). This trio brough at the groovy, psychedelic feels to The Palace. When I first walked into the Palace I was a little taken aback by Khruangbin’s sound – not exactly what I would have imagined or pictured for a Leon Bridges’ opener. But their vibe and sound ended up working perfectly as a kick off to the evening (funny how that always seems to happen). Their sound – much like Bridges – seamlessly blends the old and the new. Their gooey, guitar driven tracks both have that feeling of nostalgia and throwback with a twist that is completely modern and relevant. Their modern disco-soul sound got the energy in the room up very quickly (along with the many drinks following at the Palace’s many strategically placed bars). They closed out their set with a mashup of old school hip-hop including Sir Mix-A-Lot’s Jump On It and Hypnotize buy the Notorious B.I.G. Khruangbin return to the Twin Cities on November 27th at First Avenue’s Mainroom. 10/10 would recommend checking out!