Leon Bridges delivered a sturdy, “real deal” performance at The Commodore Ballroom Tuesday night to a full house of adoring fans.
Colombian indie soul singer Kali Uchis gave a laid back opening performance of tunes from her debut studio release Por Vida. Gracing the stage in a form-fitting lace dress, the casual movements of her hips were as fluid as her vocals. The relaxed feel of her music was matched with mild head bobbing and swaying in the audience.
Known for having worked with Snoop Dogg and producers such as Diplo, Tyler, The Creator, and Kaytranada on Por Vida, Kali Uchis’ performance lived up to her impressive list of collaborators. Her half-hour set consisted of songs ranging from downtempo doo wop tunes to fervent reggae jams like “Know What I Want”. The 4-piece rhythm band accompanying Uchis got some shine, closing with a tight instrumental jam at the end of fan favourite “Loner”.
At exactly 9:30 PM the lights dimmed and Leon Bridges entered the stage with his 6-piece band consisting of two guitarists, a bassist, saxophone player, backup vocalist, and drummer. He began with a quieter tune without any accompaniment from his band, relying only on his guitar and singer Brittni Jessie for her unfailing harmonies. Leaving barely a moment to allow the opening tune sink in, the full band began to play an upbeat gospel tune, livened fully by saxophone fills.
Leon Bridges’ sound could not be further away from his soul contemporaries, and the 25-year-old from Forth Worth, Texas supplied a set full of the conventions of Southern soul. Drawing from rockabilly, gospel, doo wop, funk, and blues, Bridges’ music sounds straight out of the 1960s.
Along with his old-style sound, Bridges donned a well-fitted suit with a skinny tie, cleanly coiffed hair, and the charm of a heartbreaker and natural-born performer. He spoke humbly between numbers to introduce the meaning of each song before diving into heartfelt performances. He grooved smoothly to the music as the band performed energetic live versions of the songs from his debut album Coming Home.
The band especially came alive during a gospel clap-worthy tune, after which Bridges took a moment to acknowledge each member of the live band. He noted that his saxophone player and singer have both been a part of his musical career since his days in obscurity.
Leon Bridges ended his set with captivating and slow-burning “River”, and returned for an encore with foot-stomping blues tune “Mississippi Kisses”. He left the audience with, “If we come back to Vancouver — tell your friends!”