[March 24, 2016]
Written by Shay Mehr // Photos by Stephen Masnyj
Leon Bridges filled the Arlington Theater on Friday March 18th after his first visit to SXSW this March. And he didn’t bring one of those openers you wish you hadn’t had to sit through either.
Son Little, an up-and-coming soulful blues singer, opened up the show in the most casual way I’ve ever seen. As the Arlington slowly filled with late concert goers, who seemingly had no clue that you should probably stop talking if you want to hear the music, Aaron Livingston and his band began with one of his big hits, “The River”. They filled the space, decorated as the starlit street in front of adobe missions, with beautiful soulful music. Their emotion almost made up for their lack of energy. There wasn’t much movement on the stage and no real chemistry to be seen between musicians. Despite all this, I was delighted to see an artist I had played on my show months prior coming to Santa Barbara and in person.
The first time my ears were graced with Leon Bridges’ smooth voice was also over the waves of college radio. I was in love with his voice! Ecstatic that an artist like him was stopping in Santa Barbara I jumped at the chance to grab a ticket.
Serendipitously enough, the song I had stuck in my head in excitement prior to the show was the opening number. “Smooth Sailing” hit our ears only after a snazzy dancing entrance by Leon after each of his members took the stage one by one.
I immediately questioned the seated arrangement of the Arlington that night as my body wanted nothing to do with a chair. His own dance moves and the groovy beats were infectious. Parts of the audience gave in quickly and after a few songs, he invited us all to join in. From then on there was only twisting, swaying, and swinging.
The entire atmosphere screamed of the 1950s and enveloped the audience completely.
Leon went through his debut album in its entirety and added about eight other tracks, some his own and some standards. Several tracks, which didn’t stick out on the album, were brought to life on stage such as “Brown Skinned Girl” and “Twistin’ and Grooving’”.
He was joined by a relatively large six-piece band featuring a pianist, saxophonist, two guitars, drums, and back up vocals. They filled out the venue and made the stage much more dynamic.
The show ended with an all out jam following “Mississippi Kisses” during the encore. It was a soft ending leaving concert-goers satisfied and not too heartbroken even though they had to return to their modern electronic music filled lives.
There She Goes
Let You Down
Brown Skin Girl
Twistin’ & Groovin’