“Where my dancers at in the house?” Leon Bridges asked a buzzing crowd at last night’s concert at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica.
As much as his show was about soul tunes and heartfelt love songs, moving to the music was that much more important. With the exception of the encore, when he pulled out a guitar, Bridges didn’t play an instrument the whole night, opting instead to dance it out while singing in that angelic and pure way of his.
Seeing him groove up on stage – body roll left, booty booty right, moonwalk that way, grapevine back – caused even the most subdued of attendees to wiggle around along with him. As if that didn’t get fans in the mood enough, he was wearing light blue flared pants … on purpose.
During the final show of his spring Good Thing Tour and also the outdoor pavilion’s season opener, Bridges did everything in his power to bring a little bit of summer to Cleveland. The festival ambiance was palpable, even with temperatures dipping into the 50s as the sun set on the Flats last night. And from the beginning, when Bridges burst onto the stage with “If it Feels Good (Then it Must Be),” his presence was infectious and unstoppable.
Coming onto the national music scene in 2014 as a modern day answer to Sam Cooke and Otis Redding, the Texan proved how much he continues to push the boundaries between current sensibilities and those funky bass and keyboard grooves of yesteryear.
Bridges played plenty of material from last year’s Good Thing, and the crowd especially freaked out when he played his tantalizing ballad “Beyond” in the middle of the set.
As fun as Bridges’ music is, it’s also refreshingly adult and sensual. He clearly wants people to dance along with him but continues to write songs not just about hookup culture but actually settling down (and not in some trite country song sort of way). That’s why his songs resonate not just with his fellow 20-somethings, but also the more mature set, as last night’s audience makeup proved. When Bridges sings of things like love, forgiveness and even his mother, it feels real and lived in just as much as the magical upbeat songs do.
“I want you to play something so funky they can smell it,” Bridges told his exceptional band and backup singers later in the show. “Something sooo stinky.”
And so they dug in hard, eventually moving into the way-too-fun “Hold On.” The whole show could probably be described as way too fun. The electricity never left the building for a second, even in quieter moments like when Bridges had his upright bassist come forward for a solo.
Ending the show with the bangin’ “Flowers,” Bridges couldn’t be gone for long. The crowd stomped and screamed for more. Eventually, guitar in tow, he came back on for one last thought with “River.”
Right there in front of the Cuyahoga River, Bridges ended his set in a manner that made us all want to float away. He made a group of people missing out on the newest episode of Game of Thrones forget their troubles. It wasn’t summer, but it was close.
Cleveland Concert Setlist:
If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be)
Bad Bad News
Brown Skin Girl
Bet Ain't Worth the Hand
Georgia to Texas
You Don't Know