On a chilly Sunday night, December 6th, the second WTTS Christmas Can Concert took place at the Bluebird in Bloomington. Fort Worth R&B and soul artist Leon Bridges took the stage for a sold-out show. There is no need to say that he won over the hearts of the audience because it was obvious throughout the evening that he already had reached each and every one of them.
Leon Bridges is a classic old soul in a young man’s body. The 26-year-old’s gospel roots so very clearly influence his soulful music, reminiscent of the greats like Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, and Otis Redding. Bridges is still on the rise as he signed with Columbia Records in 2014 after having played open-mic shows around Fort Worth for some time. DJ Spikes, a local Bloomington DJ playing vintage soul and R&B records, performed a set before Bridges took the stage. WTTS DJ Rob Humphrey introduced Leon Bridges and his band, all of whom had just come from performing on NBC’s Saturday Night Live the previous evening.
The band enters dressed very professionally with somewhat of a vintage twist that creates the mood of a 1960s R&B performance. Bridges enters and looks exactly the way he sounds. From his modern-day conk haircut to his mustard tweed suit, Leon Bridges looked quite perfect on the small club stage. The sweetest of sounds boomed throughout the Bluebird that night.
Spoken like a true gentleman, his first words to the audience were “Nice to meet you.” His 7-piece band included himself and one other vocalist, a saxophone, guitar, bass, drums, and organ. Bridges took time out of the show to introduce all the band members and was sure to add compliments or a quick story of their meeting. Bridges admittedly played many songs from his album, “Coming Home” (released in June 2015) and added some new music into the mix, too.
Leon Bridges’ sound is so much more than the “soul” or “R&B” label; It’s fresh but it’s authentic, and it’s the perfect meeting of yesterday and tomorrow. If you’ve heard his vintage voice, then you know that it is effortlessly like butter. His vocal runs and exquisite vintage dance moves transport you to an entirely different place and time and it is a pleasure to be transported there. If you haven’t heard his voice…get to it.
Highlights of the night included “Better Man,” “Smooth Sailing,” “Twistin’ & Groovin’,” “Coming Home,” and “Lisa Sawyer.” He gave small introductions to many of the songs. “Twistin’ & Groovin’” was written about the night his grandfather met his grandmother. “Lisa Sawyer” was written for his mother. “Smooth Sailing” got a different kind of introduction in the form of a drum solo and the crowd really got moving. Bridges closed the set with an intimate performance of “River” in which he played electric guitar alone with his backing vocalist.
After the crowd chanted “Leon, Leon, Leon,” the guitarist enters the stage and the rest of the band gradually joins him for a three-song encore of new music. These included “Pussyfootin’,” an instantly classic love song, and “Mississippi Kisses.” “Mississippi Kisses” is an utterly groovy song that brings to mind Wilbert Harrison’s 1959 recording of “Kansas City.” During “Mississippi Kissses” Bridges instructs different parts of the crowd to go crazy in sections, and then in unison as he addresses them as “Indiana”; They did indeed go crazy for the Southern charmer for the final time that evening. Leon Bridges warmed the hearts of WTTS listeners on a chilly December evening, but that definitely won’t be the last you see of him.
Thanks to all WTTS listeners who participated in the 2015 Christmas Can Concerts by purchasing tickets and donating canned goods to Mother Hubbard’s Cupboard in Bloomington. Thanks also to Green Bean Delivery for sponsoring WTTS Christmas Can Concert efforts during this season of giving. Happy Holidays from WTTS!