Leon Bridges at Shepherd's Bush Empire, gig review: A talented young artist with real soul

Bridges is old-school romance: with the velvet drapes and standing lamps at his back he could be straight out of a 50s high school dance

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The Independent Culture

Blessed by an unusually active London audience and 18-year-old support act Grace, who impresses with renditions of Lesley Gore’s “You Don’t Own Me” and Kendrick Lamar’s “Swimming Pools”, Leon Bridges is having a good night.

Sharp suit and skinny tie like a uniform, he moves easily round the small stage. Live, his voice is deeper and richer; his six-piece band are tight and well-turned out, and it’s easy enough to understand the comparisons to legends like Sam Cooke and Marvin Gaye. 

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Bridges is old-school romance: with the velvet drapes and standing lamps at his back he could be straight out of a 50s high school dance.  

Really, the 26-year-old best as a crooner, enrapturing listeners with the gospel-infused confessions of “River” and the ode to his mother, “Lisa Sawyer”, but his faster-paced tracks (“Smooth Sailin’”) are also obvious crowd pleasers with plenty of tenor sax solos. 

Bridges’ unabashed enthusiasm for the music means he can be forgiven for crossing the line, on occasions, into full pastiche mode. This is soul for the people who weren’t there to experience it the first time round, sung by a talented young artist who sounds as though he could have plenty more to offer.

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