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  • Leon Bridges - Live At The Neptune Theater: Review

    Mon, 07 Dec 2015 10:49:26

    Leon Bridges - Live At The Neptune Theater: Review -

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    (November 2, 2015, Seattle WA) For an emerging artist like Leon Bridges, one indication that you're doing something right, at least when you roll into Seattle, is when the co-founder of Microsoft and founder of the city's pop culture museum Experience Music Project makes an appearance at your show. That would be one Paul Allen, who, escorted by a few bodyguards, made his way to the left balcony's front row, away from the buzzing throngs below.

    It wasn't only Paul Allen there in the sold out crowd of approximately 800 souls who was looking forward to seeing Leon Bridges live in concert, but perceivably all in attendance, a wildly mixed crowd of middle-aged parents, young students from nearby University of Washington, black and white, hip and square, an assembly as wide-reaching as the neo-soul man's music itself.

    After a steamy, reggae-flavored set from opener Kali Uchis, Bridges, backed by a six-person ensemble, appeared shortly after 9:30 p.m. and immediately launched into "Doris," a song he introduced with the briefest of preambles, "This is a song about my grandmother."

    The tune—not on this debut album Coming Home, a release that broadsided critics and fans alike for its retro soul sound and the promise of Bridges' out-of-nowhere voice—was a tender warm up of what was to come, namely sizzling, R&B cuts like "Smooth Sailin'," "I'm Coming Home," "Lisa Sawyer," and "Better Man," songs he recorded for Columbia but that better resemble something from Stax, the R&B label of Otis Redding.

    Bridges' voice is often compared to that of bygone entertainers like Redding and Sam Cooke, but his songs are crafted for listeners with an ear for the techniques of today. "I'm Coming Home," for example, sounds like a doo-wop song from the early '60s played at low speed; the grooving "Smooth Sailin'" might have easily sprung from the also retro-leaning Bruno Mars (though it didn't; except for "Coming Home," Bridges co-wrote all the songs on his debut).

    Perhaps it's the whole package—the artist's pressed slacks, mod ankle boots, and overall vintage aesthetic, not to mention those Jackie Wilson dance moves—that makes it hard not to compare Bridges with the styling showmen from the '50s and '60s. But, at just 26, Bridges has publically admitted his ignorance of those acts, saying not too long ago "I only knew Sam Cooke's 'A Change Is Gonna Come' from the movie Malcolm X."

    Indeed, Bridges' live show offers something that, in spite of a youthful naivety, is more evolved and organic than what came before. While his vocals are smooth and polished on record last night proved, at times, they falter, and his bandleading prowess could use some refining, the proof that Bridges is today's modern R&B man was found the moment you turned to your neighbor, which Bridges encouraged all to do halfway through his set.

    "I want y'all to turn to the person standing nearest to you and say, 'Neighbor, I love you.'" It was a sign of the times, as much as Paul Allen's unannounced and rare public appearance: What might have once been considered a hoky stunt was dutifully performed by all, and all the encouragement Bridges needed to peel off, "I'm Coming Home."

    —The ARTISTdirect Staff

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