After blowing every other act out of the water at this year’s Body & Soul Festival, Lee Fields returns to these shores, his third trip this year and his second stint at The Sugar Club. After forty-three years in the business, Fields shows no signs of stopping. His latest album ‘Faithful Man’ is as dynamic a record as anything he’s put out since ’69. There is no support tonight – this is all about one man and no doubt the majority of attendees at tonight’s gig know well what’s in store, such is the air of expectancy in the venue. It’s an all-seated amphitheatre that Goldenplec walks into as soul standards blare out over the PA; that wasn’t to last too long.
A crew member fires rolled-up towels on to the stage, an act that doesn’t go unnoticed by the crowd, and sure enough Lee’s young band take to the stage with an instrumental run through – fast soul movers and lounge jams straight from 110th Street – until Lee emerges from the wings. “Did you come here to party!?” – a resounding affirmation from the faithful. The night proper begins and Lee incites the crowd, a masterclass in ‘how it’s done’ as the small-statured singer’s presence consumes the room. The refrain from new track I’m Still Hanging On is delivered with soul-wrenching intensity as beads of sweat drip from Lee’s brow, before the charm offensive of Ladies. The microphone is in the crowd as he chats up the front row – “I know your man gotta be satisfied” to one. “Bet your man’s wondering where you are tonight huh?” to another.
Then, I Still Got It, delivered in a way that only a man who believes he’s still got it can. The jacket comes off and Lee asks us to bear with him if he tears up during Wish You were Here, a song recorded before the death of his father. After this raw emotional rendering “It’s time to get some funk up in here!” with Money Is King. The horn section screeches it up and both Lee and the crowd are moving that bit more. The band exit leaving Lee and the guitarist to carry one, returning then and shining off You’re The Kind Of Girl. After some gospel style interactions and a bit of arm waving Lee loses the waistcoat, each of these small acts of showman-shedding getting the expected response from the crowd. Faithful Man ends and breaks in again as Lee pretends to disappear for the night only to return with a flourish.
“Let me hear you say ‘yeah’ if you wanna hear more Lee Fields” shouts the bass player as the band break into another of those irresistible instrumental soul reviews, and the horn section shines. Lee returns to a serious funk workout before Honey Dove calms things down, itself erupting into a double-time Motown stomp. He’s off again, into the wings before returning to finish with a cover of James Brown’s Sunny. The band ramp it up for the finale of this call-and-response soul cracker, and when he leaves this time we know he means it. “Thank you for the sunshine” he sings on that final number. We couldn’t have put it better ourselves.
Lee Fields and The Expressions
Photos: James Murray