Music

Leon Bridges’ Return To Australia Proves You Can Never Have Too Much Of A Good Thing

These are good days to be a Leon Bridges fan.

Brought to you by Chugg Entertainment

Leon Bridges is brought to you by Penny Drop and Chugg Entertainment.

These are good days to be a Leon Bridges fan. Hot on the heels of sold-out Bluesfest sideshows, the singer has locked in his Australian return for three headline dates in January 2019.

Since we last saw him, Bridges released a slick second album, Good Thing, which brings a new sheen to his live setlists. He’s currently leading his band across North America, with most stops long sold out, before hopping over to Europe to round out the year. With that many shows on the itinerary, he’s sure to be in well-oiled form come January.

To mark his welcome return to our shores, we’ve put together a refresher on the singular talent – and white-hot stage presence – of Leon Bridges.

Keeping A Good Thing Going

Bridges played his first Australian shows in January 2016, following a spot on the Falls Festival bill. Back then, the promising newcomer from Fort Worth, Texas, was touring a debut album, Coming Home, that recalled soul greats like Sam Cooke, Otis Redding and Stevie Wonder. (He also happened to look the part in a sharp vintage suit.) For all his classic charm, though, Bridges has evolved past the throwback tag.

That evolution was ushered in by two head-turning collaborations: ‘Kevin’ with hip-hop hitmakers Macklemore and Ryan Lewis and ‘Across The Room’ with electronic duo ODESZA.

Then, in May of this year, Bridges released Good Thing. While keeping his one-of-a-kind voice front and centre, the album works in shades of ‘80s-tinged pop, R&B and funk. Livelier and lighter on its feet than Coming Home, Good Thing channels Usher and Ginuwine as much as ‘60s soul. (As Bridges put it to Esquire this year, “I can be in the same conversation as a Bruno [Mars]…or Usher – but be myself.”)

With this new pep comes a live experience that‘s equal parts dancing and swooning.

Always A Travellin’ Man

Right after Good Thing dropped, Bridges flew to South America to open arena shows for pop megastar Harry Styles. It was a savvy move that set the stage for his own tour, which defies anyone still labelling him a “retro act”.

Bridges is earning rave reviews on his current US run, which includes iconic stops like Red Rocks Amphitheatre in Colorado and New York’s Radio City Hall. A confident frontman from the start (he barely broke a sweat covering Ray Charles in front of the Obamas), the new songs have sparked even more onstage charisma.

He’s got the moves, too: look no further than the excellent video for Good Thing standout ‘Bad Bad News’. Over a crisp funk bassline, we see Bridges strutting around his band in a hazy dance hall, intercut with model Paloma Elsesser on the streets of New York. It’s well and truly worth your six minutes – and a good preview of how the frontman gets down.

On With The Show

As seen in the Bad Bad News video, Bridges rolls with a tight-knit band, which includes fellow Texas native Brittni Jessie up front on vocals and tambourine. (You should also check out her dreamy solo cover of Mac DeMarco’s ‘One More Love Song’.) The musicians work in step with their band leader, foregrounding the voice everyone came to hear.

As an acutely shy kid growing up in Fort Worth, it took Bridges a while to trust his talent. While gospel music was central to his Christian upbringing, he only got into singing via dance, building his nerve on the local open-mic scene before making Coming Home. The new songs find his voice at its most agile and expressive, from the soaring falsetto of ‘Bet Ain’t Worth the Hand’ to the seductive register of ‘Shy’.

Bridges is splitting his sets on this tour pretty evenly between Coming Home and Good Thing. That means travelling back in time for the likes of ‘Better Man’, ‘Brown Skin Girl’, and ‘Mississippi Kisses’, plus of course his best-known heartstring-puller ‘River’. (Yes, the one from episode two of Big Little Lies’ first season.)

You can also expect to hear ‘Beyond’, the soulful breakout hit on Good Thing, and the feelgood one-two punch of ‘If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be)’ and ‘You Don’t Know’. Bridges is also known to throw in a cover or two – most notably Ginuwine’s ‘90s classic ‘Pony’. Start praying to the R&B gods for that one.

Still need proof of a guaranteed great show? Begin at this intimate performance of ‘Mrs.’ in Nashville, featuring that silky voice in full effect, then ease into big band dance mode with ‘Bad Bad News’ on Ellen. You can’t get too much of a good thing.

(Lead image courtesy of Chugg Entertainment)

Leon Bridges tour dates:

Monday, January 14 – Palais Theatre, Melbourne (all ages)

Thursday, January 17 – Hordern Pavilion, Sydney (all ages)

Saturday, January 19 – The Tivoli, Brisbane (18+)

Tickets on sale 11am, Monday, September 17.