20/07/2016
Knees collectively weakened.

Words by

Josh Butler

So it’s nearing the end of July. Melbourne is heating record low temperatures of miserable; you’ve stopped going outside except to pay the delivery dude; and just like last year, and the year before, your tax-back didn’t add up to the gazillion dollars needed to fund a Splendour trip. Despair, right? Wrong. Melbourne is hosting a plethora of Splendour run-off talent over the next few weeks so get to a show and dance the winter blues away. 

Speaking of the blues, and speaking of what I’m supposed to be speaking about in this review, last night Leon Bridges transferred The Forum into a slice of the South with his sweet, singing voice and his swinging band. The crowd was hard to place, a mix of young and old, testament to the accessibility of Bridges’ style. PNG-born, Sydney-based vocalist Ngaiire kicked off proceedings. Bathed in purple lights, she sang beautifully over minimal electric drums, which isolated her incredible voice for songs like ‘House On a Rock’ and radio hit ‘Once’. 

From the moment he swandered onto the stage – touting high pants, a white blazer and a razor sharp crew cut – Bridges had most of the audience swooning in his presence. Bridges plays an old style of music in a very youthful way, and bouncing around on stage he looks, at times, like a well-dressed teenager out to impress at a school dance (one that can seriously move). Playing a mix of cuts from his acclaimed debut record, Coming Home, and some new songs, one by one knees weakened 

Bridges’ live sound is wholly different from his studio sound, that I always value highly. Bridges’ voice is usually the star, but on stage it takes a step back into line with the other incredibly well-played instruments. The golden voice only really took its place in the limelight when the band quietly exited the stage, leaving only Bridges, his guitar and his back up singer Brittni Jessie. The two then performed a duet of Coming Home’s defining gospel ballad ‘River’. This is a hauntingly beautiful song that has rightly earned Bridges comparisons to greats like Otis Redding, and the live version was nothing short of exceptional. As Bridges sang “I wanna come near and give you every part of me, but there’s blood on my hands, and my lips are unclean” I felt the collective knees of the audience buckle and more than a few hearts melt. 

My dad always told me “RnB stands for rhythm and blues, of which Usher is neither.” But on Tuesday night I went home with the ammunition to re-spark that argument after Bridges (a classical rhythm and blues musician) delivered a superb rendition of Genuine’s ‘Pony’, to the audience’s sheer delight. Thanks Leon. 

leonbridges.com

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