Everybody needs a good dose of Soul music often in their life, so I was happy to pop along to photograph and watch Leon Bridges at the stunning yet run down St James Theatre on Saturday night.
Hailing from Fort Worth, Texas the nearly 27 year old has been getting a fair bit of attention in the last 3 years; he's released his debut album Comin Home in June 2015, signed with Columbia Records and is attracting attention rapidly. Thanking the crowd often throughout the night he mentioned he "...didn't think he'd be visiting New Zealand 3 years ago when writing his songs in his room back in Texas..."
The crowd was there, all happy and all ages, faces were aglow and ready for a good bit of soul music and the air was alive with happy feels. At 9:30 the lights went down, the band consisting of, Kenny Wayne Hollingsworth (lead guitar), Austin Jenkins (guitar / bass), Andrew Skates (Bass / organ), Jeff Dazey (Sax), Rico Allen (Drums), and the phenomenal Brittni Jessie looking beautiful on backing vocals; is a real treat to the ears.
The band started, the crowd cheered & Leon rocked and bopped his way on stage and I smiled at the simple & perfect stage of nothing but the instruments, old tube amps in beautiful room, with a smiling happy band and a young man dressed in a snappy white tux jacket reminiscent of a young Sam Cooke, dancing like James Brown onto the stage clapping, waving and smiling.
Leon began his first National tour only a year ago so I was interested to see how he was onstage; he was entertaining, still has new but handled the crowd easily keeping their attention. Opening up the set withFlowers he called out ‘...Hey nice to meet y'all..." he is an obvious talent.
So how was it? During the first half there were a couple of issues with sound mixing but they were soon fixed and didn't seem to be noticed; I was still waiting for the thing that soul music gives me; that thing that makes you want to get up and dance and sing loud; to see the rhythm section lost & grooving, the sax player sweating and howling, hear those claps & whistles that special Soul thing, the talent was definitely there! The band together are phenomenal, tight and plainly happy and all put on an amazing show, they all had their own times to shine, which I enjoyed immensely and did not let Leon down.
After a beautiful rendition of So Long a song about his parents meeting; there was a distinct turn for the better which made my night when Smooth Sailin was played the soul arrived for the night Leon encouraged everyone to get up and dance "....don't be scared (insert Texan drawl here)...".
He announced his final song under an hour into the show, played two more and rocked and bopped his way off stage to much cheering and yes I saw lighters in the air!!! The band returned for a 3-song encore and I left wanted to hear more; this WAS an early night for moi finishing up at 10:40pm. Yes; I had a fabulous night, it looked like a magical time warp back to times when family morals and values were strong, dinner was eaten at the table together, music was simple and good; people were courteous and smiled at each other and the joy of music, the venue suited him just perfect.
Most assuredly I'll buy his music and attend his shows again given the chance. Although I would probably call more 50's Rhythm & Blues sprinkled nicely with a bit of soul; do get along to see Leon and his fabulous band if you ever get a chance.
1. Flowers 2. Shine 3. Better Man 4. Brown Skin Girl 5. There She Goes 6. Pull Away 7. Let You Down 8. So Long 9. Smooth Sailin' 10. Out Of Line 11. Lonely Road 12. Twistin' & Groovin' 13. Coming Home 14. Lisa Sawyer 15. River 16. Pussyfootin' 17. In My Arms 18. Mississippi Kisse
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