Live Review: Leon Bridges, Ainslie Wills

7 January 2016 | 12:36 pm | Annelise Ball

"Bridges dances and shimmies his way around the stage in slick mustard tweed."

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Corner Hotel provides a spiritual experience for the soul tonight thanks to Leon Bridges and Ainslie Wills. Excited punters experience the darker side of hometown girl Wills' repertoire with Never Know What To Say kicking things off a little unhinged. With fierce looks flicking across Wills' face and unnerving bass string strums from Lawrence Folvig, the creepy edge is wild. Soft harmonies on the gorgeous Constellations next offer more skyward reflections. Ending too soon with Drive, Wills and Folvig perform a hot mutual rockout during the scorching, drawn-out close. 

Bridges and band saunter on stage dressed like the classiest bunch of cats lately seen on Swan Street. Starting with the swinging Flowers, Bridges dances and shimmies his way around the stage in slick mustard tweed. "Hello everyone, it's nice to meet ya!" he yells in his cute Texan twang. Bridges then wisely tells all the fellas to show their ladies some unconditional love. "You gotta put 'em first fellas, or you'll be writing songs about how to be a better man like me," he quips. Cue the sensational Better Man, a hip-swinging hound-dog number punctuated by Jeff Dazey's hot tenor saxophone and backing singer Brittni Jessie's classy doo-wops. Jazzy Brown Skin Girl gives Bridges ample time to swing and pop his lithe figure around the stage, getting himself so hot he's forced to mop down his face with a genteel handkerchief. Sax-drenched Smooth Sailin' sees the elegant Jessie adding in alluring copycat vocals. Old school rock'n'roll Twistin' & Groovin' burns so hot guitarist Austin Jenkins shakes his head in the end with spent elation. Before the beautiful Coming Home, shit gets deep when Bridges asks all to turn to their "neighbour, hug them and give them some luuurve". Holiness abounds when Bridges thanks God for being here amidst soaring church organ wails, before he strums the guitar quietly alone on the sublime River. During the encore, the band shows off their spectacular musicianship with drum, sax and guitar solos aplenty. Bridges gets everyone on stage left, centre and right to howl out in turn on the smoking Mississippi Kisses, even yelling out, "What up, bartenders! How you all doing tonight?" before making them sing along too. "Melbourne, you gotta tell all your friends to come along next time I'm here," says Bridges. Friends, you've been told. If you're hungry for soul, Leon Bridges is your man.