Concert Review: Leon Bridges Brings Style, Soul to Fillmore

Photo by Jack McKain

You know you’ve got your hands on a hot ticket when you see fans pleading with clerks under signs that read “sold out” hours before a show starts. This was the scene at the Fillmore’s box office on Friday night leading up to Texas soul singer Leon Bridges’ first South Florida gig in three years. 

Bridges brought his Good Thing Tour, supporting last year’s record of the same name, to Miami Beach for a rare advance sellout at the Fillmore. A significant departure from his 2015 breakthrough album Coming HomeGood Thing incorporated a wider range of influences than his debut, and kept Bridges’ star on the rise. 

Good Thing brought Bridges’ particular genre of soul from the past to the present, seamlessly transitioning from the retro-soul throwback of Coming Home to a more unique neo-soul sound that incorporates elements of jazz, R&B and funk. This willingness to venture into new territory bred crossover radio hits like “Beyond” and  “Bad Bad News”, which certainly had something to do with the show selling out well in advance. 

Of course, it didn’t hurt that the Fort Worth, Texas singer brought along a stellar opening act in British phenom Jess Glynne. If that name doesn’t exactly ring a bell, you’re not alone. Though she’s a huge star in England, I had never heard Glynne’s name before Friday night, but found myself floored by her particular brand of gospel-soaked pop/R&B. It wasn’t until she introduced the massive hit “Rather Be,” which you’ve probably hummed along to while grocery shopping at least a few times, that I finally realized who she was. 

There are two types of opening acts that an artist can bring along on tour: ones who are so bad that the headliner will sound great in comparison no matter what, and the ones that catch the early crowd off guard and win over the room, forcing the headliner to step up each night and top them. Of these two options, most openers fall into the former category. Jess Glynne was squarely in the latter. 

Photo by James Biagiotti

Following a short break, Bridges took the stage backed by a seven-piece band at 9:45 and wasted no time kicking things off. Clad in a camo bucket hat and a jacket adorned with gems, he launched into two heavy hitters from last year’s Good Thing, opening with standout “If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be).

I love artists that modify and amplify their songs for live settings, and in this regard, Bridges certainly delivered. Extended intros, outros and breaks elevated his songs beyond their original form on record. The first indication that Bridges was going to have some fun with his songs rather than stick to the original versions came early, with a high-energy, sped-up version of Good Thing highlight “Bad Bad News.” 

The lighting and stage setup was sparse, yet arranged perfectly to complement the design. A massive set of Bridges’ initials behind the band gave the sense that this was a much bigger show than the standard Fillmore set, changing colors to mirror the vibe of each individual song without ever being distracting. 

Bridges had no trouble captivating the packed house, keeping the energy high and showing off his impressive dancing skills during uptempo songs. He bounced back and forth across the stage, sometimes dragging his mic stand behind him while he sang, and had no shortage of dance moves in his arsenal to deploy. He worked the crowd like a professional throughout the night, as if he was determined to convince each member of the audience that he wasn’t just a singer but a performer.

By the time Bridges returned for the lone encore, “River,” and picked up a guitar for the first time in the night, the crowd was already so satisfied that the rendition of his biggest song was just the cherry on top of an already complete show. 

More important than Bridge’s singing, dancing and rock-solid backup band, more important than the jovial sellout crowd at South Florida’s favorite music venue, more important than anything else: This show was a hell of a lot of fun. There’s not much more you could want on a Friday night in Miami Beach, and I have a strong feeling that when Bridges comes back, he’ll be commanding a much bigger venue than the Fillmore. If you weren’t there, you probably missed your last chance to see this ascendent talent at such an intimate venue. 

SET LIST:

  1. If It Feels Good (Then It Must Be)
  2. Bad Bad News
  3. Mississippi Kisses
  4. Better Man
  5. Shy
  6. Coming Home
  7. Beyond
  8. Brown Skin Girl
  9. Across The Room
  10. Georgia to Texas
  11. Forgive You
  12. Lions
  13. You Don’t Know
  14. Lisa Sawyer
  15. Hold On
  16. Mrs. 
  17. Smooth Saillin’
  18. Flowers

ENCORE:

  1. River