Leon Bridges rounded off the European leg of his tour with a secret charity gig at Under the Bridge in Fulham last night.
The 26-year-old danced his way onto the stage, at the venue beneath the turf of Stamford Bridge football stadium, in a vintage blue suit to cheers from young and old in the audience.
Taking the crowd back to a 60s era, Leon performed a medley of his original songs from his debut album Coming Home which reached number eight in the UK album charts last year.
Chelsea owner Roman Abramovich cheered with admiration from the sidelines as he would for any top player.
The west London venue has chosen to celebrate its fifth anniversary with a series of secret intimate shows from top performers, announcing each show in the same week that it will take place.
The series kicked off on March 23 with a spectacular set from rising-star Lianne La Havas, with BBC Sound of 2016 winner Jack Garratt set to follow Leon tomorrow night.
Leon performed each song in authentic fashion with vintage microphone placements and fifties-style crackle.
— Kate Brighouse (@kate_telegramme) April 17, 2016
Under the Bridge was the perfect setting for the secret gig, including a backdrop of black and white visuals for Leon to enhance the blur between 2016 and times gone by.
The smaller venue size added to the gig intimacy and atmosphere, aided by a great sound system, although drink prices were at the higher end of the London scale.
The energetic performer encouraged audience interaction with singing, dancing and hugs — and was not put off when a young fan jumped onto the stage hoping for a dance with the star.
It was clear Leon had studied and mastered the greats down to every twist and turn — something reminiscent of The Temptations dancing, with the stage presence of Otis Redding and Ray Charles rolled into one.
I had aspirations to be a choreographer so I studied dance for four years in college before I started writing songs pic.twitter.com/ccSPd5ZpE3
— Leon Bridges (@leonbridges) April 4, 2016
The soul singer held the stage with his non-stop dancing making the Under the Bridge audience feel instantly at ease and happy to join in with the party.
The set-list included crowd-pleasers Coming Home, Better Man and Smooth Sailin’ along with high-octane Pussy Footin’ but the highlight of the night was Mississippi Kisses, rounding off the evening with a buzz.
The smooth tones of River added softness to the eclectic set, before performing the stripped-back song, Leon said: “I wrote this song in my garage about four years ago when nobody knew who I was, so I appreciate you all for showing love.”
Thank you @leonbridges I’m swept off my feet by you and your beautiful band. Y’all had me moved to tears during River
— Dante DeNault (@Topbunkdd89) April 17, 2016
Leon was accompanied by the understated Brittni Jessie on backing vocals, and a five-piece band including Austin Jenkins on base.
The band received continuous applause once they had left the stage for what felt like five minutes of non-stop clapping and cheering from elated fans.
Leon and the band, seemingly shocked by the huge reaction in such a relatively small venue compared to the rest of his world tour, returned to perform an encore for delighted concert-goers.
Let’s just say, if the vibe could be bottled, Leon would make his fortune on the merchandise stand.
The soul sensation from Fort Worth, Texas was one of the breakthrough artists of 2015 and is nominated in the ‘Soul Artist of the Year’ category at the forthcoming Jazz FM awards on April 26.
Speaking to the crowd, Leon said: “I’m kind of sad that I’ve got to go home tomorrow, I want to stay with you all and party.
“While I’m on that plane I want to be thinking how turned up London was man. You know who turned up?”
Before introducing Lisa Sawyer, a song dedicated to his mother, Leon told the crowd that his mother wasn’t happy with him at the moment because she has missed him while he has been touring the world and wants him back home.
If anything could make you want to dust off your hat and dancing shoes it’s a Leon Bridges gig.
Rounding off his tour of Europe with this secret concert, Leon posted online, saying: “That was a good one Europe, see you again in three weeks!”
No better way to best the Sunday night blues than Leon Bridges at Under The Bridge. What a band! Pumped for the week! Thanks @dicefm
— Edmund Perou (@EdmundPerou) April 17, 2016
Under the Bridge creative manager, Alan Tenenbaum, said: “We’ve enjoyed some incredible live performances at Under the Bridge over the last five years.
“I hope with these fifth anniversary concerts, and with the work we do at the venue in the future, that we can continue to make a positive, worthwhile contribution to the live music scene in the UK.”
Musicians without Borders, who the proceeds of the secret performances will be donated to, have organised successful music projects over the past 16 years in current and post conflict regions in the Balkans, the Middle East, Central Africa and the EU.
They work closely with musicians and organisations in theses areas to build sustainable projects in response to community needs.
Musicians without Borders founder and director, Laura Hassler, said: “We are delighted to be teaming up with Under the Bridge for this hugely exciting series of shows, which will provide much-needed financial support to the work we are doing around the world.”
Under the Bridge have announced Rodrigo y Gabriela as the fourth surprise act lined-up to perform as part of its fifth birthday celebrations ‘UTB X5’. The final act will be announced on May 3.
Tickets are £10 and available from www.DICE.fm, with proceeds going to the Musicians without Borders charity.