If you’re not from Texas, you may not know that Fort Worth is also known as Funky Town. This often overlooked city, 32 miles east of Dallas, is also home to soul and R&B singer Leon Bridges. The DFW (Dallas/Fort Worth) singer-songwriter made a recent stop in the DMV to perform to a sold-out concert hall audience at The Anthem.
On Oct. 3, the dapper 29-year-old slid onto the stage and set the tone for the show with his performance of “If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be)” from his recently released sophomore album, Good Thing (2018). Leon danced across the stage with the dexterity and energy you may associate more with Usher rather than an artist known for vintage soul.
Leon’s debut album, Coming Home (2015), was a huge commercial success, but it may have been a double-edged sword. Leon’s retro style and the album’s ’60s aesthetic could have easily typecast the singer as an old soul that specializes in nostalgic music. On the Good Thing album, he takes a chance at a more current R&B sound and successfully dispels notions that he’s a one-trick pony.
The song “Bad Bad News,” off the new album, appeared as a vibrant dance track that was distinctively soulful and modern. This was Leon being himself but acting unapologetically his age. The following lyrics from the song made his intentions clear: “Let me slip through. Why you trying to hold me back? I’m tired of being in the back. I’m just trying to move up front. A little more of this, a little less of that…” The Anthem audience approved.
Stream Good Thing by Leon Bridges on Spotify:
The Texas soul singer was a high-energy performer, but he also has a romantic side. Couples cuddled and the crowd swayed during his performance of “Shy,” off Good Thing, and crowd-favorite “Coming Home,” the title track from his debut album.
“Georgia to Texas,” from Good Thing, opens with the sounds of an upright bass that penetrates the soul. We learn more about Leon’s origin story as he sings from a sitting position at the edge of the drum platform. The heartfelt jazz infused song, with a spiritual bent, is a homage to his mother and family. He clearly holds his mother, the 504 black girl in the song, in high esteem. He dedicates “Lisa Sawyer,” off Coming Home to her and all of the mothers in the audience.
The thumping of “Forgive You,” from the new album, got the audience’s blood pumping. The song about the foolish things we do for love should be the only song you listen to if you’re reeling from heartbreak or thinking reconciliation. Oh yes, we’ve been there, Leon.
Our Funky Town host dialed up the tempo with “Smooth Sailin’” and “Flowers,” both from the Coming Home album. His rousing encore performance of “River,” with backup singer Brittni Jessie, brought the house down, before he closed out the show with “Mississippi Kisses.”
Here are some photos of Leon Bridges performing at The Anthem on Oct. 3, 2018. All photos copyright and courtesy of Will Colbert.