While the current vanguard in music is focused on exploring minimal, ambient expansions on '80s-rooted R&B, Leon Bridges follows the blueprint of a much older era of the genre, one derived from Sam Cooke and Otis Redding as opposed to Sade and Luther Vandross.
Possessing a warm, rich, clear tenor and tastefully understated guitar chops, Bridges chose to go it alone for his opening slot for Lord Huron at the Crystal Ballroom last Thursday. The capacity crowd's attention was mostly held by his simple, honest performance, although the spartan presentation will likely need to be bolstered if Bridges were to begin headlining shows of this scale.
Leon Bridges represents the second-wave revival of vintage '60s soul/R&B in recent memory, following approximately a decade after the Dap-Kings' first collaborations with Amy Winehouse, Mark Ronson, and Sharon Jones, along with Mayer Hawthorne's early indie efforts on Stones Throw.
While it remains to be seen how well the songs hold up to the scrutiny of extended listens, Bridges has gained attention based on a very authentic sound, one free of any sonic traces from the past 50 years of recording technology. The songs posted on SoundCloud seem to arrive to our earbuds via tape, tubes, and wood-grain speakers, and sound warm and relaxed. Without the same engineering magic to lean on for the live show, the songs were forced to stand on their own. Thankfully, they remained largely engaging.
We'll get a chance to hear them again when Leon Bridges comes back for the Pickathon festival on July 31-August 2. More photos of Thursday's show after the jump!