Maybe you’ve heard of Leon Bridges by now, thanks to his appearance in an NPR “Tiny Desk Concert” or one of his tunes showing up in a prime-time advertisement. Chances are you like his infectious hit “Coming Home,” the first track off his album by the same name, which has nearly 32 million streams on Spotify. But the other tracks, including “Better Man,” the slow and soulful “River” or songs like “Flowers” that betray his Texas roots are well worth the listen, too.
Bridges and his backing band, including a stellar sax player and similarly impressive back-up singer, recently rolled through the Durham Performing Arts Center on tour, and I remember thinking early in his set that I hope Greensboro’s planned downtown performance space will someday draw acts like his.
I’ve run into a few people who are acquainted with his music, which harkens back to the soul hits of earlier generations, who aren’t impressed. It’s unoriginal, they say, and not that interesting. But while I wouldn’t put Bridges in league with bygone greats, I have no idea what these folks are talking about. Yes, Bridges dances about as well as I do (read: hopefully endearingly bad), but he maintains a good stage presence even seen from the balcony, explaining some of the context behind song lyrics and exuding genuine excitement for the stage.
The band’s encore lasted longer than it should’ve, considering the length of the set that could’ve been extended, but all is forgiven because Bridges started their return to the spotlight with a cover of Ginuwine’s legendary hit “Pony.” Describing myself as stunned would be an understatement, and I only wish the seated audience had risen to its feet earlier in the night to jam along with Bridges and company.
Watch the music video for “River” and then try and pretend you’re not drawn to Bridges. Listen to “Coming Home” if you haven’t, and if that doesn’t work, consider the upbeat “Outta Line.” If you can’t find something you like on his album, we should just avoid talking about music together.