LEE FIELDS & THE EXPRESSIONS
There is only one true shining beacon of classic soul music living in the flesh and his name is Lee Fields. He’s been burning up stages for over 40 years and shows no sign of stopping. Fields brought his backing band “The Expressions” to Seattle‘s Neumos and absolutely shook the soul shack to a large crowd of fans and quick converts. Ladies and gentlemen–the King of Soul, Mr. Lee Fields.
For those that don’t know, Lee Fields is a recording artist from North Carolina who released many 45s and one LP throughout the 60s and 70s. He turned out such funk/soul classics as “She’s a Lovemaker,” “Bewildered,” and “Everybody Gonna Give Their Thing Away To Somebody (Sometime)” on a slew of digger friendly, obscure funk and soul labels such as Angle 3, Sound Plus, and London Records. After trudging through the 80s and 90s, releasing independent music and touring sporadically, he was “re-discovered” by Truth & Soul Records in the early 2000s. Since then, he has put out 3 albums with them and really reignited the classic soul music revolution with extended family Charles Bradley, Sharon Jones, and Daptone Records.
The mighty backing band of The Expressions stepped to the stage and warmed it up with one of their classic soul instrumentals, before welcoming Fields to the stage. Lee popped out in the finest polyester suit that you have ever seen. It was creased in the right places, cuffed where it needed to be, and slick! The amazing thing about Lee Fields is that, as soon as he starts singing, your heart moves almost as quickly as your feet. He is the past, present, and future of classic soul music–a genre that died after Motown and has, somehow, been resurrected by a bunch of kids (compared to Lee) in Brooklyn New York; the home of Truth & Soul Records.
When he introduced the tear-jerker, “Wish you were here,“ Lee informed us that it was a song that he wrote about his father, who passed away 2 years ago. I always considered this one of those perfect love songs, with all the longing, soul, and heart bursting that comes along with that. But hearing what this track was really about, made it even more powerful. After he crooned and rested his head in his arms, kneeling on the Neumos stage, Fields wiped away visible tears. Here was not just a performer, but an artist. Lee Fields is someone who lives to write songs about real life; soul manifestos that so many of us can relate to, and maybe even tear up a little to, also.
The soul singer’s 90-minute set was full of all of the favorites from his records, with a minimal amount of talk in-between. It was evident, pretty quickly, that Lee preaches through his songs and not through onstage banter. When he did speak, he repeatedly expressed his thanks for people coming; this is a man who doesn’t take any song or show for granted. Fields is on a mission to remain the unique artist that he is and the shouting and jumping Seattle crowd proved that they affirm this artistry and the compelling music. Songs like “Honey Dove” and “Ladies” had the audience swaying indefinitely and singing along emphatically.
The Expressions, are made up of musicians that were, seemingly, not even born when Lee put out his first single, but they truly represent the continuation of that classic analog sound into the future. This was soul music without effects, or even many solos. They truly understand what it means to play “parts”–something that has become a lost art in modern music. The guitarist, Vincent John, was armed with only a wah wah pedal and an amp drenched in reverb. Bass player, Benjamin Troken, laid down solid lines all night. Tightly, with fine precision on the drums and breakbeats, was Evan Panzer. Dave Guy, who played the trumpet, is also a member of Sharon Jones’ Dap Kings, and on on killer sax was Mike Buckley. Keyboardist,Toby Panzer, played a lone Farfisa organ with it’s distinct garage rock and 60s soul sound. The band was the meat and potatoes and Lee Fields was the tasty gravy that took the music to the next level.
The set was tight, always soulful, and had people enthralled, whether they were offering a ballad or a dance floor burner. The last time that he was here, Fields brought the incredible singing duo of Lady along. They were phenomenal when they opened this show and sang backups for him. Hopefully next time Lee Fields & The Expressions will bring these dynamos back and treat us to a double dose of soul. Until then, Seattle has been souled and should be good ’til they return.