Soul-singer Leon Bridges brought his tour to the Fillmore March 6. Bridges has been touring extensively since he released his debut album “Coming Home” last summer. This was the second time Bridges has been in Philadelphia in less than six months, and he will be returning for the Roots Picnic in early June.
Philly-native Son Little opened for Bridges. Another soul singer, Son Little relies on more modern sounds than the retro Bridges. While Son Little had a bold and smooth voice, his performance was a bit slow. He went through about nine songs, including his single “Lay Down,” before stepping off stage.
Shortly after, the lights dimmed and Bridges’s band took the stage. They began to play “Smooth Sailin’” as Bridges sauntered to the front. Dressed in green suit and golden tie, Bridges looked quite dapper. With nothing but a red velvet curtain in the background and all live instrumentation, the concert truly felt like it was straight from the 60s, minus all the cellphones the crowd was raising.
The concert was still plenty lively, even without any fancy effects. Bridges and his band were polished and worked perfectly together. Saxophone solos and guitar riffs kept the crowd moving. The Fort Worth native danced as smoothly as he dressed. He swayed, snapped and bopped with every soulful croon and drum strike.
Unlike Son Little, Bridges’ music was quite fast-paced. After opening with “Smooth Sailin’,” he transitioned to the up-beat “Out of Line” and “There She Goes.” The cheerful, jaunty ninety minute performance felt like a breeze. Bridges rolled through hits like “Better Man” and “Coming Home,” only slowing down for more somber tracks like “Shine.” He even debuted a new song “Let You Down,” which he wrote while on tour.
Bridges seems at first glance to be anti-pop. He is as retro as possible, with lyrics about love and religion, he uses no synthetic sounds. Yet he was able to sell out the over three thousand capacity Fillmore, and has done so across the country on his tour. His authenticity and pure joy resonated across the audience, and showed that the feel-good music of 1960s Motown has not been lost.
After playing an extended version of “Mississippi Kisses,” Leon thanked the crowd and walked off stage. But the audience stayed and continued to cheer, and soon Bridges and his band came back for an encore and played a trio of songs. The lights dimmed and a spotlight shined on Bridges and his backup singer Brittni Jessie. With nothing but a tambourine and acoustic guitar, the duo performed the slow and awe-inspiring track “River.” With exuberant cheers from the crowd, Bridges strolled off stage for the last time, ending a groovy night at the Fillmore.