October 4, 2018 at Agganis Arena
While struggling to find my assigned seat on the floor of Agganis Arena, confused about why there were seats in the first place, I started getting a sense of positive anxiety that only comes when I know I’m in for something special. This was the first time I was equally excited for both the opening and main act of a concert, both coincidentally being from Texas. After releasing his second studio album in May, Leon Bridges has been showcasing his skills on his Good Thing tour in North America with different opening acts. For the Boston date, he brought trio Khruangbin, who are one of the greatest bands I’ve discovered in the last eighteen months.
Khruangbin’s set was the best part of the night, no doubt about it. The sound and the groove were perfect. I was astonished by all the pure and seductive melodies these three musicians were able to express through their craft. Each song gently made its way to the other while still managing to portray different emotional states. The smooth drumming of Donald Johnson, the lyrical style of Mark Speer’s guitar and the melodic delight of Laura Lee’s bass lines create one of the best sonic fusions in the modern music world. It’s important to highlight the moment when they played ‘Lady and Man’ from their latest album, Con Todo El Mundo. The multiple layers that the trio incorporated in the live version of the track went from a theatrical instrumental chunk to the funkiest jam session of their whole repertoire. It was something else, and I haven’t stopped listening to the song ever since.
The arena was at full capacity and full excitement when Leon Bridges and his band stepped on to the stage. Everyone finally ditched their seats and started feeling the vibe with a couple of great numbers including ‘Good Thing’ and ‘Coming Home’ while the 29-year-old from Fort Worth showed off his great dance moves. After a touching sing-along moment playing ‘Beyond,’ the most successful song of his latest album, things started to feel out of place. The dancing and running from one part of the stage to the other shadowed the music and started to get annoying, and he went from down tempo to upbeat tracks quite abruptly. Similarly, his latest album feels just like that, and I really didn’t connect with it as much as I did with his first.
Before his encore he performed ‘Lisa Sawyer’ and ‘Lions,’ which were highlights of the show. Both had great intros full of jazz improvisation, exposing the strong abilities of all band members and Bridges’ soulful voice. The best moment was when he sang ‘River’ alongside his female backup singer, Brittni Jessie. The original recording of the song is majestic, but hearing it live was breathtaking and inspiring. The gospel-like vibe expressed through this masterpiece was so emotional that the whole arena felt like a huge cathedral.
Still, I hope I get the chance to see Leon Bridges perform again in another type of venue. After seeing his performance in an indoor arena, I know that I would appreciate his energy more in an outdoor festival or in a medium sized venue. It just didn’t feel as personal as I wanted it to be. As for Khruangbin, they will be performing a sold-out at the Royale in December. For a glimpse of their brilliance, check out their Pitchfork Live performance.