As the sun started to set over the Mad Cool site, and the temperatures began to drop from sweltering to temperate, revellers emerged from their shady hideaways to start to catch their first live acts of the weekend. Over on the Koko stage, Leon Bridges drew in a moderate crowd of punters with his wholesome gospel-tinged tunes and truly excellent dance moves. Opening with ‘Smooth Sailin”, Bridges was flanked by a slick 7-piece band but it was the young Texan you couldn’t take your eyes off. His brief audience interactions were warm and humble: “Thank you very much, it’s nice to be here with y’all tonight, and our job is to make you have a good time” he told the audience, before launching into the Motown riffs of ‘Better Man’.
He’s clearly a seasoned performer, leading his band with ease and occasionally setting his microphone aside for brief dance breaks. And he’s musically diverse – in under an hour Bridges took us through gospel infused pop (‘You Don’t Know’), doo-wop (‘Coming Home’) and ’50s rock and roll (‘Flowers’).
Ahead of the penultimate tune, Bridges took a moment to serenade the crowd, singing, “I hope you had a good time, but before we go, can we just…can we play one more”, before his band launched into the sweltering grooves of ‘Mississippi Kisses’, as the singer encouraged methodically went through each section of the crowd and demanded they got on their feet and dancing. For set closer ‘River’ Bridges took centre stage for a stunning acoustic version of the song, with half his band exiting the stage. Accompanied only by one backing vocalist and a subtle piano, it was gorgeous reminder that this is a man who is a cut above the rest live. No pomp, no frills, just a true performer.
Leon Bridges played:
Bad Bad News
Brown Skin Girl
If It Feels Good
You Don’t Know
Mad Cool Festival in Madrid continues on Friday and Saturday, with Arctic Monkeys, Dua Lipa and Nine Inch Nails still to appear.