With Wesley Geiger
Majestic Theatre, Dallas
Saturday, November 14, 2015
Leon Bridges had a triumphant homecoming Saturday night on the last show of his American tour, his first North Texas show (with the exception of a busking performance on a Deep Ellum sidewalk) since his album release party shows at Scat Jazz Lounge in Fort Worth over the summer. This show at the Majestic Theatre, the last vestige of what was once an incredible downtown theater district, had been sold out since June and the crowd was absolutely mesmerized. He could have easily filled The Bomb Factory.
Bridges kicked off the performance with a slow song, “Doris,” playing his guitar accompanied only by his backup vocalist, Brittni Jessie. Right away it was clear that he had gained incredible chops from spending most of the year tirelessly touring all over the world. His booming voice sounded loud enough to fill AT&T Stadium. From there, he put down his guitar and his band launched into an up-tempo song, “Flowers,” with Bridges dancing around singing in a bowtie and suit.
He kept the pace going with a flawless rendition of “Brown Skin Girl,” which he often cites as one of his favorites. Jeff Dazey’s saxophone sounded particularly great here and continued to shine for the rest of the performance. Dazey has been with Bridges since he was playing for a handful of people in Fort Worth. The same can be said for Austin Jenkins, who played bass and guitar.
Along with Josh Block, Jenkins played a crucial role in getting Bridges a Columbia Records contract by recording Bridges’ debut album, Coming Home, at the pair's recording studio full of vintage equipment, Niles City Sound in Fort Worth. Some studios are open for decades without producing a single hit. But Niles will officially open its doors next month after achieving a production sound that turned heads all over the world while still in a makeshift state. Block normally plays drums for the band, but is currently taking a break with his wife who's expected to give birth this week. Block and Jenkins have long been known as members of White Denim, a band that puts on some of the most blistering live shows you will ever see.
Bridges’ voice, his band, the flashing lights and his incredible confidence seemed to stun the crowd enough that their reaction felt delayed. The show started with the type of applause and screams you would expect, but everyone in the crowd suddenly stood on their feet about 20 minutes in and remained standing for the rest of the night. By the time Bridges closed his set with "River,” the crowd was fever-pitched, begging for an encore and maintaining that level of enthusiasm throughout it.
It is beyond question that this young talent, who is still a fairly new name to North Texas, is rapidly becoming not only a household name on the national level, but also a worldwide phenomenon. At this point, it is impossible to say just how big he is going to be. The Norah Jones comparisons are starting to seem very plausible, especially considering the strong likelihood of Bridges receiving Grammy nominations and performing for tens of millions viewers at the ceremony.
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And Bridges has stayed true to his roots. He is still with the people he started with and now considers them family. He also had Wesley Geiger, the North Texas songwriter he still name checks as one of his favorites, open the show with a great 30-minute set featuring songs from his album El Dorado. Geiger was backed by a great group of local musicians known as the Texas Gentlemen, a great six-piece band with two acoustic guitars and two electric. Some of us remember a jaw-dropping performance from a group called Leon Bridges and the Texas Gentlemen at Club Dada last year.
Geiger and Bridges both make songwriting seem easy. Their music effortlessly conveys meaning with lyrics and sounds that seem deceptively simple at first listen. Geiger has more of an Americana sound while Bridges leans more towards gospel, soul and R&B. But both make music that could instantly appeal to anyone and also reward repeat listens.
At this point, Bridges’ talent is undeniable. This was a huge show, the best performance he has ever given North Texas, and we can expect the next one to be even bigger and better. Bridges' rise to stardom may have been swift, but there is no question that his ferocious work ethic has been a prime factor. The sheer amount of press he has done this year alone is daunting.
But he has been relentlessly touring and shows absolutely no signs of stopping. Next month he will play a handful of radio shows across the country before heading to Australia for an extensive tour. From there, Bridges has another American tour from March to June. But Saturday’s 70-minute performance was nothing less than epic, something people will be talking about for years. Bridges' previous local shows seem tiny compared to this Majestic performance. And he will probably play to a crowd three or four times bigger next time we see him here.