GIG REVIEW: Leon Bridges | Forum Theatre | MELB | 19.7.16

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Splendour season is upon us and Tuesday night was Leon Bridges' turn to exhibit his stunning brand of soul music to his fans in Melbourne.

Opening the night was Australian/Papua New Guinea sensation Ngaiire, who blessed the early comers with her flawless vocals. Fresh from the release of her latest album Blastoma in June, Ngaiire has fast become one of our most loved soul artists. Tonight she showed her depth, whether she was playing emotionally charged tracks like ‘I Wear Black’, or ‘turn-up’ songs likes ‘Around’. Her versatility allows the crowd to be mesmerised during her downtempo tracks and then groove during tracks such as ‘Diggin’. Her opening set showed off her many facets as an artist combined with her powerful vocals.

Leon Bridges has been one of the leading artists who have brought the 50s and 60s back to life and revived it for the new generation of soul music lovers. Hailing from Fort Worth, Texas, Bridges had his breakout last year after releasing his debut album Coming Home.

His set started on a high note with ‘Smooth Sailin’’, this was a wise choice by Bridges as the track features an abundance of energy that is both contagious and addictive. Next up was ‘Outta Line’, another fast paced track which featured the amazing use of the saxophone and tambourine by his band. If you didn’t know that Bridges is all about the grooving blues, you did now. 

He took the energy down a few notches and showed his emotional side with ‘Pull Away’, a performance that I promise gave many people in the crowd goosebumps — especially with lyrics that talk about heartbreak and the harrows of it. The proceeding track ‘Better Man’ saw him singing about wanting to win his love back, a complete juxtaposition from the track before it. 

Bridges showed off his flirtatious side with ‘Brown Skin Girl’. Though much of his music displays nostalgic vibes, there is something about this track that makes imagine a time where clubs weren’t full of gyrating young people in barely any clothes. Instead, I wish the world was full of well-groomed young people who also possess incredible partner dancing skills — classy, unlike the current state of our nightlife scene. It was also very evident that family means the world to Bridges, a cute moment where he explained that he had written ‘Twistin’ & Groovin’ about his grandma and grandpa’s courtship and his grandpa’s initial attraction to her ‘long legs’. Again, all I can think of is the world like the one he depicts in his songs. He also played ‘Lisa Sawyer’, dedicated to his mum.

He finished the initial part of his set with the minimal sounds of ‘River’, which at its conclusion left the crowd wanting more. He returned to the stage playing a sexy rendition of Ginuwine’s ‘Pony’. Though the song has been covered an unacceptable amount of times by a range of different artists, Bridge’s cover of ‘Pony’ was better than any of his predecessors.

Leon Bridge’s music has the power to bring live to and warm the frostiest of hearts. He’s a rare breed in our current musical climate, and it’s refreshing to see someone revive the past so beautifully. 

Written by Amy Smolcic
Photography by Kristy Smolcic