REVIEW: Leon Bridges at Summerfest

I had a bit of Deja Vu last night because I was at this show but 3 years ago. Even though it was the same time of year and the same venue, last night’s show was different from the last time. It was the same old Leon Bridges with his infinite amount of soul and swagger but for some reason, I felt that the show seemed to be choppy. That silky smoothness that I came to know was there in the songs but from one song to the next it felt a bit disjointed. Being the first show this Summerfest that I felt the crowd was truly into it, it didn’t slow him down from playing hit after hit mixed with his fantastic new songs.

The Band

Leon Bridges is no longer the young buck he once was when he was breaking onto the scene and that’s a great thing. The Atlanta-born Fort Worth native soul singer has been disrupting the scene ever since his debut album “Coming Home” in 2015. Now after his third album just dropped it’s clear that this man is going to be creating fantastic soulful albums that aren’t matched by anyone else in the industry.

Matching his 1960’s inspired soulful sound, Leon Bridges stands out with his unique clothing style with his backup band mirroring similar feels. They blend that feel of music our parents grew up with screaming blues riffs and hard-hitting drums that snap you back to the reality of the time we are in today.

The Experience

Leon Bridges comes out to the crowds screaming and welcomes everyone in his genuine southern hospitality feel and kicks it off with “Shy” an interesting choice to warm the crowd up. The audience immediately feels his vibe and begins dancing with him. Albeit a bit of a slower song to kick off the set, it’s not slowing anyone down. That’s really one of the beautiful things about seeing Leon Bridges, he has so much soul spiked into his music that even the slower songs don’t deter people from getting into it.

As the show begins to warm up I kept getting this feeling that something was off. Despite the sound being fantastic and Leon going out of his way to keep the crowd amped up it felt that every time a song ended it was a hard stop that kept breaking my immersion. Usually, the artist will talk to the crowd about the new album, or how good it feels to be here, etc. This particular show had a little bit of that but it felt like everyone was tired. Not to deter from the fact that once the band and Leon were going they were absolutely electric. There was a bit of a good amount of audience refrain singing which is normal but I mean there was a lot. One of his biggest songs “Beyond”, a personal favorite of mine had almost a quarter of the song sung by the audience. Once again it didn’t ruin the experience but it took me out of the immersion of how good Leon Bridges is. Maybe it’s the end of a tour and everyone is a bit tired, who knows.

The highlight of the show for me was when he picked up a guitar and played his summer hit “Texas Sun” off the EP he did with Khruangbin. I thought this might be the one that he didn’t play and it was a welcome surprise to see him do so. This song stands out to me as such a great summer banger that combines his soulful sound with a 60’s inspired funk that makes you feel all warm and fuzzy. It was clear that the audience really felt this too as I was hearing people sing with him.

As the show began to wind down it was clear what he was going to end with as he and his backup singer sang the beautiful “River” to cap off the show. The sound of this song waving over the crowd mixed with the fall-Esque weather was something to feel. As shivers went down my spine and my hair stood on end I was reminded once again of how fantastic Leon Bridges is and the powerful sound that he has to make anyone feel. Something I think is missing in much of today’s new music.

The Verdict

It’s Leon Bridges, he’s amazing. Even though the show felt a bit disjointed the songs he performed and the way he engaged the audience was something that’s not easy to forget. It never fails to make you feel some type of way, get you off your feet and make sure that you walk away with a smile on your face.

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