Photo by DYLAN LONG
The sold out crowd at the Fillmore Sunday night for retro-nouveau soul sensation Leon Bridges’ eagerly-awaited return to Philadelphia was 85% caucasian. Bridges is used to this. Back in June of 2015 Leon told The Guardian, “I have a song called “Brown Skinned Girl,” and I ask ‘Where my brown-skinned girls at?’ And there’s maybe one or two in the crowd. It’s a little awkward sometimes.” At 9:15 sharp, Bridges shimmied out on stage, snapping his fingers to the beginning of “Smooth Sailin’” amidst deafening cheers. Leon’s voice and energy were equally extravagant, not to mention his dapper attire and poised dance moves. The front row, which was a very diverse group of teenagers and young adults (a stark contrast to the rest of the room), was the most vibrant section of the crowd, jiving along to every tune in the band’s arsenal.
Bridges laid out the classics from Coming Home, such as “Brown Skin Girl,” “There She Goes” and “Twistin’ and Groovin’,” intertwined with new and unreleased works in progress. “We’re always workin’, always writin’” Leon muttered with a grin. As the night drew to a close, one by one Leon introduced his full band, which had some of the best brass that I’ve ever heard support a headlining act, and the lovely backup vocalist Brittni Jessie, whose voice served as a graceful backbone to the entire set. All in all, Leon Bridges proved that his soulful, vintage sound paired with his dry yet invigorating voice is a recipe for amazing times, and that Philly is most certainly in for some more goodness when he rolls back around for the 9th annual Roots Picnic this June.
Son Little had the privilege of being the one and only opening act for the evening. Son Little is the project of Philadelphia native Aaron Livingston, who was backed with a full band including his very own sister on backup vocals as they warmed up the packed house. The band’s easygoing tunes, such as “Doctor’s In” and “O Mother” were the perfect dose of smooth and soulful R&B to get the crowd moving. Although at times barside conversations and people still filing into the venue overpowered the softer songs from the group, Son Little’s performance was very well received, helping set a positive vibe for the main act to capitalize on. — DYLAN LONG