Lianne La Havas
Music Hall at Fair Park, Dallas
Sunday, Sept. 18, 2016
“Welcome to the L and L show,” the always dapper Leon Bridges, clad in a black suit, said to the sold-out crowd at the Music Hall at Fair Park on Sunday night. The L’s Leon was referring to were of course himself and opener, British-singer songwriter, Lianne La Havas, but the L’s might as well have stood for “locals” and “lovers” because the night’s show seemed especially tailor-made for those who fit either bill.
While it may have been the Fort Worth native’s largest show yet in DFW, Bridges' performance played out like an intimate (though no less spirited) party among hometown friends. Bridges has never been one to forget his roots even as his presence on the national stage increases. Between his consistently scheduled hometown shows, there always lies the possibility that lucky residents will catch an impromptu appearance of his, be it on the streets of Deep Ellum or at a local venue with some of Bridges’ local musician friends.
His six-piece band jumped straight into a rambunctious, saxophone-filled rendition of “Smooth Sailin’” to set up Bridges’ dancing entrance, and with it the mood for the entire performance was set. This was going to be a neighborhood party and everyone was going to be dancing whether or not they had intended to do so. Leon was home.
Bridges’ local love was on full display Sunday as he continually addressed DFW by its individually marque cities. Every shoutout to the Dallas crowd was followed by a shoutout to Fort Worth, lest his fans forget which side of the Metroplex that Bridges hails from. Heck, at one point he even asked who was from “Agg-town,” the ever elusive Arlington love there.
The night was mostly a high-tempo affair with Bridges showing off his ever-improving dance moves and stage command by getting the crowd to their feet at several points. Between crowd shakers like “Flowers,” Bridges nestled his more gospel-inspired slow tunes such as “Shine” and “River.”
A particularly poignant part of the show came when Bridges addressed his mother, who was in attendance, and introduced the song he wrote about her, “Lisa Sawyer.” Like any good party, Bridges closed out the show with an even more boisterous number than the one that started it. His tight backing band showed off their chops with an all-out swinging version of “Mississippi Kisses,” which was much livelier than its recording. It had much more saxophone, too, courtesy of fellow Fort Worth boy, Jeff Dazey.
Earlier in the night, Lianne La Havas prepped the room and then some for Bridges' retro-soul with her own soulful blend of jazz, pop and R&B. The Brit’s rich and golden voice fit in well with the warm late summer night in North Texas. While Bridges began his performance with his entire band, La Havas started off hers with just her guitar and what she dubbed “a true story,” the song “Age,” a tune about being in love with an older man.
The apparent sincerity and grace with which La Havas delivered song after song of “considerably smarter than your average love song material” was enough to make one believe her whole set was made up of true stories. Like the instrumentals, the lyrics were clearly crafted with care, yet they came together and were delivered effortlessly by La Havas.
The elegance of La Havas’ impeccable vocal delivery was matched by both her charisma (she looked positively delighted to be performing) and her guitar chops. The North Texas crowd may have come to the Music Hall Sunday night to see local son Leon Bridges, but those who didn’t know her before undoubtedly left with the desire to hear more from the talented Londoner who charmed them.