Leon Bridges may be a Grammy-winning singer, songwriter, and recording artist – but he also knows a thing or two about fashion.
Towards the end of Tuesday’s recording of Austin City Limits on ACL Live, the Fort Worth soulful sensation recalled its first appearance on the program five years ago. He had bought a smart blue blazer for the occasion, combine it with light brown trousers and a red and gold tie for an ensemble that he obviously regretted in retrospect. “I hope I did better this time,” he said to the crowd with a smile.
Good yes. In a flawless black leather suit with pants that flared wide at the ankles, Bridges exuded more style than about 99 percent of the performers who have appeared on the program in five decades.
Bridges may have grabbed the world’s attention with a butter-and-silk voice applied to heartfelt original songs, but his attention to sartorial eloquence is clearly part of the appeal. Namely: After Bridges played in front of a full house at Stubb’s on Sunday, flew to New York for the famous Met Gala, the opened the “In America: A Lexicon of Fashion” exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Monday. And then flew back here for the “Austin City Limits” recording on Tuesday.
All of this is an integral part of the artistic presentation and identity of Bridges, who released his third album in six years this summer. “Gold-Diggers Sound”, recorded in the hotel / bar studio of the same name in Los Angeles, delves deeper into the R&B and soul territory that he advanced with “Good Thing” from 2018 after his debut “ Coming Home “started in 2015 with a comparatively more popular aesthetic.
He played the entire “Coming Home” on his first “ACL” tape in 2016, so he understandably reduced the material from this record to just the title track and his signature song “River” at the end of an 80-minute set . The focus this time was clearly on the new album. Bridges played everything from “Gold-Diggers Sound”, supported by a great seven-person crew consisting of guitarists Brandon Thomas and Kenny Wayne Hollingsworth, bassist Josh Crumbly, drummer Brandon Combs, keyboardist / saxophonist Josh Johnson and backing singers Brittni Jessie and Brandon Marcel .
Everyone followed Bridges’ sharp dressing example, especially Jessie, whose combination of crop top, sparkling silver pants and sleek hat could have eclipsed the front man’s clothes. She has been a magnetic presence throughout, suggesting it might only be a matter of time before we see her own career.
Among the highlights of the new album were “Why Don’t You Touch Me,” a deeply touching, heartbreaking ballad; the current single “Motorbike”, driven by highly danceable syncopated rhythms; and “Sweeter”, which he released a year ago after the death of George Floyd (“Why am I scared with skin dark as the night / Can’t feel peace with those judgmental eyes”).
Bridges also appeared in six songs on “Good Thing”. The clear highlight was “Beyond”, his most successful radio single to date, and an instantly memorable pop song that most of the crowd sang along with. Surprisingly, he didn’t play the album’s opening track, Bet Ain’t Worth The Hand, which won a Grammy for traditional R&B performance.
The performance was streamed live on the program’s website. It is cut to half an hour for a November 6 TV episode that he shares with Houston’s Khruangbin, who recorded the show Monday night and worked with Bridges on the 2020 EP “Texas Sun”.
Leon Bridge’s Austin City Limits setlist:
3. Why don’t you touch me?
4. You don’t know
5. Born again
9. Blue tables
13. Don’t worry
14. Sho Nuff
15. Bad bad news
16. Come home