Leon Bridges' concert Saturday night at the Majestic Theatre began the same way he's spent much of the year, with the 26-year-old singer standing center stage under a gleaming spotlight, guitar around his shoulder, all eyes on him.
But after months spent traveling the globe, this show afforded the Fort Worth native an opportunity to celebrate his breakthrough year and final sold-out tour performance surrounded by fans, friends and family on his home turf. Bridges was "coming home" as promised, in spiffy suit and bow tie, to the people who had spun his debut record by the same name incessantly since its summer release and watched as he skyrocketed to new heights of fame and acclaim.
Bridges' trajectory to fame is storied around these parts. He was a regular at local open mic nights prior to a deal with Columbia Records that almost immediately changed his title from up-and-coming local musician to red-hot R&B sensation, his old-school blues and soul sound satisfying a craving among music lovers nationwide.
Fort Worth musician Wesley Geiger, who opened for Bridges in Dallas, likened the headliner's rise to Beatlemania in an interview after the show.
But if fame has had any effect, it's been grooming Bridges and the six magnificent musicians behind him to capture a room. Flanked by the ornate columns of the Majestic and centered against a red show curtain, crowds were transported to the golden eras of doo-wop and soul with songs such as "Smooth Sailin'," "Better Man," and "Flowers." It wasn't long before attendees were out of their seats dancing with Bridges.
The concert, however, wasn't just a recreation of Coming Home. Where the album focuses heavily on vocals, the performance put backing musicians Jeff Dazey (saxophone), Austin Jenkins (bass/guitar), Kenny Wayne Hollingsworth (guitar), Andrew Skates (bass/organ) and Brittni Jessie (vocals) in the driver's seat with bigger sound and enough wiggle room to showcase their skills. From subtle vocal variations on tracks like "Pull Away" to the expanded saxophone solo in "Lisa Sawyer," the band worked through a 90 minute set like pros.
Bridges also offered up several unreleased songs, including the gospel ballad opener "Doris," upbeat blues tune "Let You Down," and encore intro "Pussyfootin'," all of which conjured persistent comparisons to Sam Cooke and other greats before him.
The whole evening felt like a step back in time. Wesley Geiger and the Texas Gentleman, also from D-FW, primed the room with an hour-long ode to Texas country. The band crooningly worked through it's debut album, El Dorado, with sad ballads, foot-stomping honky tonk moments, and enough slide guitar to make you weak in the knees.
The high points Saturday night were seemingly infinite, but Bridges wrapped the concert with a bow by closing with "Mississippi Kisses," a true story, as he tells it, of meeting a girl from Mississippi in New Orleans. He conducted the crowd from top tier to bottom to "do ya thang" via funky freestyle dancing.
The best part? We got to see Bridges do his.