To say that Leon Bridges is a throwback would be something of an understatement. His brand of soul is the type that prefigured soul as a genre. Though Sam Cooke is his obvious model, what he takes from Cooke is the pop sense of someone who saw rock ‘n’ roll as the next big thing, Leon Bridges is a rock ‘n’ roll singer.
He took the stage at the Field of Heaven in a spiffy preppy getup, two-tone shoes, cool shades, and with the hippest dance steps from Texas. He slides and grooves to a different drummer, so to speak, and often you get the feeling that his feet are way ahead of his brain. The crowd dug the whole effect, but you could tell they didn’t know who this handsome drink of water was. And while Bridges’ forte is the romantic ballad (many of which were about his family), it was the boogie woogie and upbeat R&B numbers that won them over in a very big way.
Of course, it’s never difficult to get Japanese audiences to wave their hands and clap along, but once Bridges started to increase the tempo and the intensity halfway through his set, the crowd suddenly pushed closer to the stage and followed every note and step. It wasn’t as resolutely funky as Con Brio was the day before, but in its own loose-limbed way it was more fun. “These are beautiful people,” he said, ignoring the beautiful scenery, which was just too obvious. He didn’t come for the scenery, and the crowd didn’t know what hit them.