Leon Bridges @ The Fillmore with Son Little.
Text and images by Daniel Mrazik.
It felt quite intentional that Leon Bridges and company strolled onto stage last Sunday evening dressed in their Sunday best at The Fillmore. Rather, the band walked to their assigned positions and started the first song “Smooth Sailing” while Bridges waited for his own cue. The cue kick-started his fittingly smooth, groove-filled, almost moonwalk strut across the stage to his pulpit for the night – the mic at front and center.
From that moment on, he was the preacher and the audience was the congregation that swayed and danced and gave praise all evening long.
The soul-filled excursion started about an hour earlier when the opener Son Little, who has collaborated with Philly-based RJD2 and The Roots, led the crowd on a set filled with calm yet emotionally-driven drum beats and guitar riffs that felt like they belonged in an earlier era.
The music that felt utterly sensual finally received its validation as Son Little asked, “Is anyone standing next to someone they are attracted to?”
With screams of agreement from everyone, he dove into a song that could have been one of Bridges’ own, setting the tone for the main event.
After Son Little exited and Bridges had come sailing across the stage, he and his ensemble treated fans to a show that defined not only classy, but also classic. Coming straight out of decades past, the 7-person group arranged themselves territorially by instrument with backup vocals and bass/organ to the left, Bridges and drums center, and saxophone and two guitars to the right. A drape-like backdrop that must have been imported from a 60s theatre completed the time-warped look that Bridges showcases on and offstage.
The performance led the audience through many of the songs from Bridges’ album. He kicked off “Brown-skinned Girl” by asking, “Wanna know what I can’t get enough of?”
He then talked about his grandfather taking notice of his grandmother’s long legs before jumping into “Twistin’ and Groovin'” and ended “Coming Home” by pretending to forget the lyrics and coaxing the crowd to help him out. He also treated fans to new material commenting that though he may always be on the road, he is still always writing. Even with only one full-length album, the music did not struggle to fill every moment of the show.
After returning to the stage for three encore songs, he saved the best for last as most of the band left for the final song. With backup vocalist Brittni Jessie dimly lit and the organist in complete darkness, he strummed and waded through “River” with all the emotion that such a socially and historically motivated song evokes. While the spotlight mostly remained steady on Bridges, it moved back and forth as vocalists traded leads. The song faded out to a last harmony and a full room left to its own contemplation.
Leon Bridges and Son Little will be playing together through the end of March when they will continue touring separately. Leon Bridges Coming Home was released in June of 2015. Son Little released his self-titled album in October of last year.