QUAYS News entertainment reporter Molly Smith was at Albert Hall last night (September 23) reviewing Leon Bridges for us. This is what she thought…

Leon Bridges had previously performed an intimate gig at Manchester’s The Deaf Institute, but following the success of the Georgian born singer’s debut album, ‘Coming Home’, Bridges kick-started his four date UK tour to a sell-out crowd at Manchester’s Albert Hall.

After a late start, Australian solo artist Grace took to the stage to warm the crowd up in preparation for the main act. Grace was joined on stage by an electric guitar, keyboard and a versatile DJ. Originally the set up seemed peculiar but as she got into her set you could see the reasoning behind choosing the following instruments and set up to back her vocals. Grace impressively managed to fill the venue with her large vocal range during the half an hour set that she was given.

Support acts often struggle with the size of venues due to the fact that the audience is large compared to the audience that they would perhaps attract. Although conversations still continued throughout the crowd during the performance, the 18-year-old still managed to create the illusion through her stage presence that this was her own show. Slowed down ballads such as Boyfriend Jeans demonstrated the incredible voice that she owned.

Grace

Her vocals showed similarities to artists such as Paloma Faith and Amy Winehouse, as shown further when she covered Amy Winehouse’s version of Valerie. Valerie is always a crowd pleaser which is bound to spur involvement from the crowd.  Grace spoke briefly before each song about why she had written the chosen track, this then encouraged the audience to listen closely to certain lyrics that showed depth and long term insight and knowledge on issues such as love which contradicted her young age.

Leon Bridges finally took to the stage and showed the crowd why the 1950s needed to be brought back. During the mighty 20 song long set Bridges demonstrated to the crowd exactly the era and genre that he wished to be a part of. Bridges belonged in the era alongside artists such as Sam Cooke and James Brown, from the set design to his outfit he had perfectly managed to take the audience back to the 50s.

However, saying this, he still managed to add a modern twist to his music in a way that shows why his style should not be discounted in the modern day music industry. Bridges also paid homage to his gospel roots when introducing the track Shine by saying that he was going to ‘take the crowd to church’.

With a slow start, Bridges chose to begin the night with slower songs from his album which appeared as an odd choice. Tracks such as Flowers could have been a better choice as an opening performance due to the upbeat tempo. Starting with a slow song can often lose an audience from the start. Bridges however managed to balance out the slow start with other impressive tracks such as ‘Brown Skin Gir’l that got the crowd wanting to move along with the music.

The set-list could further be critiqued with the inclusion of his biggest track Coming Home in the middle, an artist will usually leave their most well-known track until the end of the show in order to reach full involvement. It is hard to know whether Bridges including ‘Coming Home’ so early on worked in his favour or not. Bridges performed tracks from his album and new tracks such as ‘Lonely Road’ accompanied by his band which included a saxophone. The saxophone added a great sound to the live performance and really managed to bring the studio versions of the tracks to life.

Leon Bridges (2)

In relation to his onstage persona Bridges could be described as having unique quirks to his personality which further enhances his originality. By carrying out acts such as singing Happy Birthday to a member of the audience and making small jokes following his statements he managed to keep the audience entertained not only through his music but also through his interaction with them. Compared to other artists though, Bridges could have created the relationship that he had with the audience purely through his music. Each song was accompanied with Bridges’s own dance moves that could have been influence by the likes of music stars such as Elvis Presley.

The highlight of the show was the four song encore which managed to have everyone in the crowd out of their seats. The encore began with the layering of instruments such as electric guitar, bass, drums and a saxophone before Leon Bridges managed to turn Albert Hall into a venue for a retro party. An artist that can create this kind of atmosphere deserves high appraisal. Leon Bridges is an artist that needs to be seen live in order to fully appreciate the music that he is bringing back into the modern day.

By: Molly Smith
@mollyelean0r

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