Leon Bridges at the Santa Barbara Bowl (Sept. 12, 2018)
Paul Wellman

There’s a mad world of new soul and R&B out there, but when Leon Bridges hit the scene, it balked a bit at his purity, taking a collective swallow to recalibrate. His second album delivered strongly, and his concert last week at the Bowl was solid too — although it did not quite show the mind-blowing caliber of his debut tour at the Arlington, when he grabbed us all by surprise.

The evening started with the almost unclassifiable Houston outfit Khruangbin, whose soulful instrumental display was kicked to super-dope levels with a medley of hip-hop classics, from “It Was a Good Day” to “Jam On It.” After the break, Bridges dove into what I thought were his hits — complete with my 6-year-old daughter spinning amid our seats — although my family are such fans that maybe our barometer is skewed. Then came a mellow section, with stand-up bass and saxophone highlights.

Once Bridges got back into it, the rest of the known tunes rolled out, including one that hadn’t made either album. He hit “Smooth Sailing” on the cue that my 8-year-old son predicted, and then led into “River.” At that point, my son hopped into my lap to share the moment, and all was good.


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