There’s something to be said about a contemporary soul and R&B artist that artfully revamps classic soulful grooves for the modern masses with tailored style and charisma. I’m of course talking about the charming Leon Bridges, the Texan-raised soul crooner and groover whose sold-out shows at the Forum were exactly what the doctor ordered.
Supporting Bridges for his Splendour Melbourne sideshow was super-stylish Sydney neo-soul star Ngaiire, whose massive vocals and bassy euphoric beats warm you from the inside-out. After cooking an already wired crowd, the stage was set for Bridges and his ensemble. Forum is well-suited for multi-instrumental arrangements. Plenty of room to let loose and work the stage. So imagine when the lights dim and out strolls a six-piece band, complete with the stunning backup vocalist Brittni Jessie. The ecstasy of the crowd only elevates when Bridges strolls out shortly after donned in a full piece black prom suit. Bridges doesn’t just deliver emotionally-charged soulful grooves, bluesy ballads, and gospel bangers; he lives and breathes the classics, complementing his Sam Cooke sound with his ‘50s image style. He’s charming, debonair, and humble, taking pride in his supporting band, some of whom have been with him since day dot.
The definitive statement from Bridges of ‘I’m about to take you to church’ was enthusiastically backed-up with sure-fire hits ‘Smooth Sailin’, ‘Better Man’, and ‘Brown Skin Girl’, electrifying the adorning crowd as Bridges twisted and writhed around the stage with infectious boogie hops. He was on a mission, playfully testing the crowd with the simple question ‘Has Melbourne got the juice?’. But it wasn’t just about seeing how much you could swing your hips. There was a moment. Actually, there were a few moments. Bridges distilled everyone in that room to their fundamental human elements that further justified his charm with a few very simple words: ‘Turn to the person next to you and tell them you love them’. The ensuing amity was enough to turn even the wildest beast into putty. Right in the feels. This mood welcomed the ballad ‘River’ to provide the perfect drop in tempo and lose oneself to Bridge’s crooning cadence. A genuine moment.
Indeed, genuine was the perfect way to round-off this performance, as Bridges treated a prominent ‘90s-raised crowd by dropping a groovy cover of Ginuwine’s ‘Pony’. If that wasn’t enough to drop your hips, not only were you not a ‘90s kid, you were unprepared for banging closers ‘Pussy footin’ and ‘Mississippi Kisses’, the swinging, swelling version of the latter igniting the entire Forum assembly as Bridges separated us into three competing partitions for who could throw down the loudest and proudest. Left side crowd for the win.
If you ever want to go gigging solo and guarantee you’re leaving with someone that night on the same wavelength, go see Leon Bridges live, then play his record ‘Coming Home’ when you go back to her place.
Ate: Soul, R&B, gospel, and a touch of big band.
Drank: Mornington IPA.
Leon Bridges, The Forum, July 20, 2016
– Matt M.
Matt is a mad scientist by day and beer connoisseur by night. When he’s not devouring a new set of craft beers you will find him in a dankly lit room plotting his approach at the next alcohol-related festival.