Live Review: Leon Bridges – Metro Theatre, Sydney (03.01.16)

“We’re here to make you feel good and that’s it”
– Leon Bridges, addressing the sold out Metro Theatre as part of his debut Australian tour.

Leon Bridges is a consummate performer; something rather extraordinary given the Texan has only been on the scene for 2 years and one record (the brilliant Coming Home). But in his sell out Sydney debut performance, the soul artist proved this to be the case, setting hearts a-fluttering from start to finish.

In town for Falls Festival, Leon’s visit could not have come soon enough for his Australian fan base. Singing along to every song, fans gave the rising Fort Worth star – who recently featured on Saturday Night Live and sold out a tour around the US – a heroes welcome, cheering for every note that he and his six piece band delivered.

With a style born from the Soul Music stars of the 1950s and 60s, Bridges and his band – including White Denim guitarist Austin Jenkins – seem determined to play as true to the legacy of the genre as they can. Everything from their outfits, to the stage setup, lighting and the instrumental overture that played before Leon walked onto the stage (all that was missing was a Danny Ray type) all screams of authenticity. And not because it’s a gimmick, or because they want to copy something that was popular 50 years ago. They simply want to do it right – and do it right they do.

Sliding on suavely as the band played their opening notes, Leon briskly jumped into one of his debut album’s most endearing tracks, “Flowers”, which melted in a sea of beautiful sax, followed by “Better Man” and “Brown Skin Girl”.  By the time he was onto his third track, the lights behind him spelt out LEON, as a single colour was left hanging behind. It was simple and classy – but precise and engaging.

Five songs in and Bridges teased new material, crooning how is was “going back to my baby”, before the great guitar and Saxaphone moments of songs like “Smooth Sailin'”, “Lonely Road” and “Twistin’ And Groovin'” – a track about the moment his Grandparents met, which may have been the highlight of the night.

“Coming Home”, his debut record’s eponymous track, got a spectacular singalong, and Leon ended the all-too-brief main set with “River”, playing the guitar himself for the first time in the set, accompanied by his backing vocalist and organ player.

Though he made it through some 13 songs in the main set, in the classic tradition, these soulful songs of love and longing are brief – and we were only about 40 minutes into the set at this point. Thankfully he delivered a three song encore, with the guitar and drums kicking things off as the band returned for “Pussyfootin'” and “In My Arms”, a brilliant new track from the artist.

But in another tradition of saving the best for last, Austin artist Gary Clark Jr. – also in town as part of Falls Festival – joined his friend for his final track “Mississippi Kisses”. Naturally, the song propelled into a jam session with Gary and the band, while Leon got the crowd to dance and danced a bit himself from one side of the stage to the other. He even got down into the crowd for a brief moment before launching himself back on stage to finish the song. And what an end note it was. Lucky for fans he stuck around after to sign some records after the show (what a guy!)

The only complaint about this show was that it was too short. With some of the best sound I’ve ever heard at the Metro, elegant lighting, and fantastic music to boot, the gig set a bar for what the venue is capable of. And shows off Leon as one of the finest emerging talents in the world right now.

Some may say Leon Bridges was born fifty years too late – but if the crowd tonight (not to mention his performance) was any indication, he’s arrived exactly at the right time.

Leon Bridges continues his Australian tour by returning to Victoria for two shows later this week – Wednesday night at the Corner and Thursday night at 170 Russell. 


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Larry Heath

Founding Editor and Publisher of the AU review. Currently based in Toronto, Canada. You can follow him on Twitter @larry_heath or on Instagram @larryheath.