Arts, Off Campus

Leon Bridges Brings the Soul to Boston Calling Day One

As a headliner for the first day of Boston Calling, fans flocked to see Leon Bridges on the Happy Valley Red Stage on Friday, May 24, as he geared up for a performance that brought a vintage feel to the annual music festival. 

As expected, the ’60s soul and blues inspired artist attracted an older crowd compared to some of the other sets of the day. The audience dispersed into many groups of friends and significant others in response to the calmer music Bridges is known to play, trading in excited jumping and screaming for untroubled swaying.

Bridges began his performance with “Father Father,” a song made even more reminiscent of ’60s blues by Bridges’ attire. Clad in tan monotone with a corduroy jacket, flare pants, heeled boots, and thick-rimmed sunglasses to accessorize, Bridges kicked off his set in a way that screamed soul. 

After the slow song “Father Father,” Bridges then dove into one of his more popular songs, “Texas Sun,” with a long guitar introduction. 

Bridges did not speak to the crowd very often, but his more mellow song choices still drew the fans in.

“Twistin’ & Groovin’” followed, transporting the audience into the past with rhythmic drums and guitar riffs. Picking up the pace, the crowd started to get into the set, twisting and grooving themselves.

Bridges kept this upbeat style going with “Brown Skin Girl,” which he started by singing at a slower pace than the recorded version but sped up part way through, as fans cheered in response and resumed their dancing. 

Using another long instrumental break as a means of introducing the next song, Bridges began “Smooth Sailin’,” again playing with pacing to really energize the crowd. 

Playing at a faster rate, Bridges marched around the stage as he let the drums and background singers take over at particular parts, grooving with the music similarly to the crowd.

Slowing it back down with the next three songs, Bridges mellowed from the more energetic feel to start singing “River,” one of his most dulcet songs. As Bridges began, his background singers came to stand in a line alongside him, their voices equal through the chorus to make an already emotionally thick song even more so.

Taking a break from the raw emotion that is “River,” Bridges asks, “Anyone know anything about my first album?” before singing “Coming Home,” the song that kick-started his career. Still exuding emotion like classic soul music does, Bridges’ singing played with the audience’s heartstrings and kept its eyes glued to the stage.

Bridges’ ability to tap into the crowd’s emotions peaked when he sang “Beyond,” a simple song about love, which visibly made many of the couples in the audience resonate with the lyrics.

“I’m scared to death that she might be it / That the love is real, that the shoe might fit / She might just be my everything and beyond,” Bridges sang as couples leaned into each other and swayed with the beat.

Following it with “Mrs.,” a song with similar meaning, Bridges spoke out to the crowd.

“I see some dancing,” he said, his soul sound ever-present. “I see you gettin’ groovy.” 

To finish out his performance, Bridges sang “Bad Bad News,” dragging it out with a long instrumental break to take the bluesy feeling to the next level. With the band having taken over, Bridges danced around the stage, introducing every member and getting the crowd back into an energized state.

As the song came to a close, all spotlights cinematically converged onto Bridges, the instrumentals dying out to allow for just his vocals to shine with the last note. The band then came in full force, combining with the crowd’s clapping and cheering for a grand finale.

 

May 29, 2024

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