Just before he received a 2016 Grammy nomination for Best R&B Album, Leon Bridges played Saturday Night Live to a crowd that all but devoured every velvety note the soul revivalist delivered — and all this for a dude who still gets the occasional “Leon who?” upon introduction. Bridges is one of 2015’s strongest voices, a singer from Fort Worth who conjures Sam Cooke comparisons by the score and sells out reputable venues in a matter of minutes. The last time Bridges rolled through town, he headlined the Apollo; before that he was bouncing between the Music Hall of Williamsburg and the Bowery Ballroom in support of his Columbia Records debut, Coming Home. It was only a matter of time before the big bookers took notice, so the fact that Bridges bowled over network TV shortly before receiving due nods from the Recording Academy makes for a moment of kismet for the rising talent. It’s a good year to be Bridges, and 2016 is looking ever brighter as it draws nigh.
As Coming Home has long since seen its release, the material off the album is well-worn at this point for Bridges fans. (Emma Watson can tell you how great the title track is, surely.) Bridges went with the bouncy “Smooth Sailin’ ” to start, the band behind him revving engines over vintage rock breakdowns and an exceptional beat. He didn’t break a sweat or miss a step, nor did he hit a mediocre note or lull — and the same can be said for Brittni Jessie, his backing vocalist.
The party vibe of “Smooth Sailin’ ” took a nosedive into calm-lullaby territory with the gospel-tinged “River,” complete with a backing choir and Jessie’s melodies reaching heavenly heights. Bridges may be dressing up classic tropes in 2015 trappings, but he’s tapping into a need for nostalgia that can’t be quieted when the world’s gone mad and certain chords hit the ear just so. Coming Home is a strong debut that shows his musical chops, boasts a sensational band, and promises a just-as-pleasant follow-up. Here’s to Bridges’s year and that well-deserved Grammy endorsement.
And now, the tweets: “Classy,” “goosebumps,” and “omg Sam Cooke” were all terms or words thrown about social media like crazy last night. But first:
An appreciation post for Leon’s aftershow tux, which was, well, worthy of “classy” and “goosebumps” and a Sam Cooke nod, too:
— Leon Bridges (@leonbridges) December 6, 2015
Appropriate GIF usage:
— JDegarson (@johndegarson) December 6, 2015
10+ points for the Bye Bye Birdie throwback reference/probably not the point but good on you anyway:
One of Leon Bridges’ rhythm guitarists looks like Conrad Birdie. But I guess that’s the point, isn’t it? #snl
— Vexed (@queenofattolia) December 6, 2015
Goosebumps, and not the R.L. Stine kind:
— Tim Hyde (@iamhyde) December 6, 2015
I’ve only recently discovered the life affirmation that is Leon Bridges’ River. He’s playing it now on SNL. I have goosebumps. This is art.
— Paco Gampp (@PacsTrack) December 6, 2015
More links to the past, with passing references to Otis and Sam:
Been waiting on Leon Bridges voice since Otis Redding #snl
— Its A Maad Ting (@ClatisC) December 6, 2015
Leon Bridges has such a Sam Cooke vibe. So damn good. #SNL
— Dory (@dory1028) December 6, 2015
This is the only time Mom saying she’s “super juiced” about anything is mildly appropriate
my mom just found out that leon bridges is on snl tonight and she got super juiced im proud of her
— Kaya (@lil_leslie09) December 6, 2015