The Orpheum Theatre was transported in a musical time-machine on Tuesday night when Leon Bridges whisked away a sold-out crowd into a different era.
The rhythm and blues singer-songwriter, decked out in his signature vintage suit and skinny tie, took us back in time – around the 1960s to be more precise. It was a time of Sam Cooke and Otis Redding; a time of simplicity and rawness in music. And like his album, Bridges displayed that rawness through his gritty vocals and southern soul on stage last night.
After the release of his critically acclaimed debut album Coming Home in 2015, Leon Bridges quickly went on to sell out venues all across North America. His new-age soul sound is unlike any other artist today, and his fans of all ages recognize this rare talent.
On Tuesday night the 26-year-old Grammy-nominated star first appeared by dancing his way on stage, as female fans (and some males) swooned over the handsome singer. Opening with “Smooth Sailin’” the audience applauded and sang along while politely seated in the theatre.
The Orpheum, known for its beautiful decor and crisp sound, provided a perfect backdrop to Bridges and his six piece band, which included the graceful backup vocals of Brittni Jessie. Surprisingly, the crowd remained seated during his upbeat and high energy performance of “Outta Line” and it was only when Bridges told the crowd to “get up out of your seats if you need to” that Vancouver really started twistin’ and shakin’.
And it was the perfect time, as he began singing his hit track “Better Man” soon after. His smooth grooves and finger-snap dances only added to his charisma on stage. All the while, the women in the crowd continued to swoon. “Wanna know what I’m always dreaming of?” Bridges asked at one point. “Brown Skin Girls, man,” he answered. As he lead to the intro of “Brown Skin Girl” a fan behind me screamed “I’m right here.” And hey Leon, so am I.
But it wasn’t just the females in the audience cheering when Bridges & co. covered Neil Young’s “Helpless” a crowd-pleasing surprise that tied his older material with a new track called “Hold On.”
In a world where pop music reigns, Bridges’ “old man” sound (and look) has a life of its own. His broad appeal is challenging the lines of genres and what defines popular music today. The stripped-down sounds of his performance had everyone in silence between songs – apart from the random “I love you’s” and “be my baby daddy” screams. His single “Coming Home” was met with a theatre-wide sing-a-long, followed by “Mississippi Kisses” and a brief encore.
And unlike a Canucks game in the start of the third period, not a single fan moved from their seat before the encore. The crowd was glued and waiting for more. Closing with “Pussy Footin’” then the very popular “River” was more than enough to impress the fans.
“All the music stuff is new to me,” Bridges admits before the end of the show. “I appreciate you guys being with me as I grow.” And no-one was more appreciative and grateful than the fans that filled the sold-out theatre, especially after being transported back in time by such a soulful rising star.
Photos for Vancity Buzz provided by Brandon Artis. Connect with him at @_brandonartis.