Review: Leon Bridges at Manchester Academy

28-year-old multiple Grammy-nominated artist Leon Bridges released is currently on tour promoting his new album ‘Good Thing’.

His new music is more adventurous and upbeat but also remains broadly retro with similar references to the American south sound of his first album. As a big fan and unfortunately missing his last Manchester gig at the Deaf Institute we were beyond excited to see him at the Academy.

Bridges sets the tone for the show as he dances onto the stage (running 15 minutes late). He immediately launches into one of his new songs. Bridges’ first comment of the night was a greeting to us all;

“Make some noise Manchester, tonight I’m gonna give you a bit of love and happiness”

Bridges is constantly dancing, with a traditional seven-piece band at his back, featuring rhythm and lead guitar, bass, keys, and two backing singers, the music was pure, the stage was set with a wide circle where Bridges could prowl, shimmy and slide around.

The night’s first true high energy moment comes at the end of the second track ‘Bad Bad News’ during the extended instrumental break. Bridges dances around the stage as the colourful stage lights follow him.

He loses the crowd slightly with this mid set 5-minute dance only piece. As entertaining as his dancing is we have already watched 30 minutes of it. It is very theatrical but I can only think that it would be a much better idea for him to be sat at the front of the stage with just an acoustic guitar and that voice of his. He would easily have the crowds undivided attention for as long as he wished.

Bridges has one of those singing voices that is timelessly charming, smooth and soulful, punchy and playful – It’s a shame you couldn’t really hear it from the band. The production of the show isn’t working unfortunately.

“Thank you for coming out tonight. That song was a little too new for you guys, I’m gonna bring it back to the first album ‘Coming Home’.

He pulls it back with ‘Better Man’ a romantic moment as the crowd sway, clap hands and couples kiss. Bridges covers a mix of both old and new, playing some classics off his debut album. He then mixed in new songs, including his love ballad ‘Beyond’, ‘Mrs.’ and his dance-worthy, feel-good song, ‘You Don’t Know’.

During his rendition of ‘Coming Home’, Bridges held his diamanté mic to the audience at the chorus, allowing for the whole crowd to sing along to. And they did, every word was sung loud and clear.

“If you’re feeling sexy make some noise” and you can’t help but feel he says this at every show.

Photography by: Matt Eachus (themancphotographer.co.uk)

We watched the last couple of tracks from the Academy balcony and took in the atmosphere or lack of. Bridges closes out the gig with ‘Twistin & Groovin’.

His golden voice has always been his super power, however tonight the dancing took over, we came away feeling disappointed we didn’t see much spotlight on him, or any solo tracks.

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