Jeff Bridges turned West Hollywood”s legendary nightclub the Troubadour into his living room last night as he previewed songs from his Aug. 16 self-titled album, as well as delved into Bad Blake”s catalog.
With a guitar strap emblazoned with BAD, Bridges easily swung back and forth between his new alt country tunes and songs fans first heard delivered by his alter ego, “Crazy Heart”s” Blake, including the Oscar-winning “The Weary Kind.”
Given that the bulk of the sloping songs-whether for Blake or Bridges-were penned by John Goodwin, the late Stephen Bruton and T Bone Burnett, there”s no real demarcation between either.
In fact, Bridges opened with “Hold On You,” one of “Crazy Heart”s” more uptempo numbers. Bridges, who won an Oscar for his portrayal of the wash-up country crooner, shares with Blake an easy-going, sly stage presence. He”s a natural in front of a live audience and he seemed bolstered by the presence of his wife, sister, brother Beau, and a number of other friends, included Burnett, some of whom go back to elementary school. There were some newer friends there as well, including Ryan Reynolds and Pierce Brosnan.
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Nothing seemed to fluster Bridges, including some tuning issues. After trying to handle his guitar himself, he called his tech on stage to handle it and regaled the audience with a funny story about having kill time on stage for his dad, actor Lloyd Bridges, decades ago after his father realized his fly was down the entire time.
Fans know him for his acting, but Bridges has always considered himself a musician, a fact confirmed by none other than Quincy Jones, who warmly introduced Bridges and talked about using a song written by the then 17-year old Bridges for the soundtrack to the 1969 movie “John and Mary.” Later Bridges revealed that a friend had recently found a number of jam sessions they recorded on a Teac in his youth. “There were no songs allowed,” he joked, threatening to bring those home recordings to light one day.
Though his band, called the Abiders (of course) is not the same collection of top-flight musicians that played on the album, they proved just as adept at interpreting the songs, especially Bridges” longtime musical compadre/guitarist Chris Pelonis and Randy Tico on upright bass.
Bridges” gruff voice ranged from a growl on the trippy, languid self-penned “Slow Boat” to flat-out singing on the album”s stand out, the rollicking “What A Little Bit Of Love Can Do.” His is not a mellifluous or supple voice, but it has a certain heft and (true) grit that makes it pleasing.
Other highlights included the sly “Maybe I Missed the Point,” greatly enhanced by Bill Flores on pedal steel and his closing tune for the 70-minute set, a sweet cover of Bob Dylan”s “The Man in Men,” dedicated and sung directly to his wife of more than 30 years, Susan.
He then, like a true musician, flung a number of guitar picks into the audience, laughing as he said, “I”ve always wanted to do that.”