Lee Fields & The Expressions 2012

Live at the 02 Academy, London 10th November 2012

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Lee Fields enters stage right at the O2 Academy, London
Photo: Courtesy of Siobhan Bradshaw

If anyone needed proof that the art of showmanship, supreme love for your audience and sheer spine tingling soulful vocals is alive and well in 2012, then look no further than Mr Lee Fields. This man has paid his dues, having been performing since the age of 17. Although now into his seventh decade, it was evident that Lee Fields is only just peaking and enjoying his musical second wind as it were.

This particular gig showcased his two most recent and must have album releases from the up-and-coming Truth & Soul record label – 2009’s “My World.” And his current 2012 release “Faithful Man.” Tracks from both albums are receiving heavy exposure on discerning Internet radio stations/shows, such as Mick O’Donnell’s “Soul Discovery Show” on Solar Radio and Mark Merry’s “Soul Sermon Mixup” on Starpoint Radio.

And so on to the show. After two full on instrumental tracks, “Thinking Black.” and “Let’s Go Summertime,” performed by his fabulous backing band, The Expressions (Aloe Blacc), the man himself was announced to the stage by the bass player Benjamin Trokan. He approached the microphone wearing a shiny gold and browny/black show suit inclusive of matching waist-coat and uttered the words “How y’all doing?!!” “Are you ready to party?!!!” And with that Lee Fields launched into a rousing cover version of Little Carl Carlton’s, “Two Timer.” From here on in the crowd were 110% on Lee Fields side. The next tune he unleashed was “My World,” the title track from his 2009 album. It’s conscious and observational lyrics placing it in the category of a Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On?”

The full on, raw soulful emotion of the Lee Fields vocal were showcased perfectly on the following song, “Still Hanging On,” one of the many standout tracks from his current “Faithful Man” CD. However, hearing it live, the power and punch of The Expressions’ horn section really brought it to life.

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Jason Colby (trumpet), Mike Buckley (sax)
Photo: Courtesy of Siobhan Bradshaw

Dipping back into his “My World” set, the band enthusiastically struck up the familiar chords of “Ladies,” one of many anthemic and soon-to-be classic tracks Mr Fields and the Expressions have been wooing audiences with around Europe over the past 2 to 3 years. The track is so infectious, and with Lee Fields at the helm egging on all those in attendance to edify “Ladies! Beautiful ladies! Lovely Ladies!” the party was now well and truly underway.

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Photo: Courtesy of Siobhan Bradshaw

The title of the next track “I Still Got It” confirmed what the Lee Fields aficionados already knew about this seasoned soul veteran, and those being newly initiated were finding out, that this man has lost none of his vim or vigour and that he’s definitely still got it! He confidently swaggered across all areas of the stage reiterating this fact to one and all.

Staying with the fabulous “Faithful Man” CD Mr Fields then introduced the achingly sincere mid-tempo “Wish You Were Here,” dedicated to his much loved and missed father. A powerful message indeed sung from deep within his heart and dripping with sincerity.

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Photo: Courtesy of Siobhan Bradshaw

By this time we were all fully enthralled by this man style and substance and his performance on the following track “Money I$ King,” left us in no doubt that we had been transported back to the golden era of the 1960s Stax reviews. This cautionary tale about the age old love of money, gave Mr Fields the opportunity to pay homage to one of his childhood idols Mr James Brown. Not only in his vocal delivery but his amazing dance moves! Trademark JB spins, the camel walk and the one foot glide across the stage! The audience went ballistic! Proper old school business! I was sweating just watching his dynamism.

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Benjamin Trokan (bass) and Vincent John (guitar)
Photo: Courtesy of Siobhan Bradshaw

Naturally, and not surprisingly the tempo was brought right down on the next tune, “Could’ve Been,” although the style and substance remainded of the highest quality. All the band members vacated the stage except for guitarist Vincent John and Lee Fields himself. The poignant lyrics of this song were expressed beautifully and passionately by the main protagonist and impacted so powerfully alongside the lone guitarist.

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Photo: Courtesy of Siobhan Bradshaw

One couldn’t help but think of another of Lee’s teenage soul idols, Mr Otis Redding performing “I’ve Been Loving You” at the Monterey Festival, given the pace and delivery of the tune. This observation was compounded when the rest of the band returned to the stage to perform a mega uplifting outro. Spine tingling stuff!

After an extremely consummate rendition of the accusatory “Who Do You Love,” the band launched into the intro of yet another standout track from the “Faithful Man” collection, “You’re The Kind Of Girl.” This lilting bumper is punctuated by Lee Fields trademark soulful grown, which seems to emanate from deep within his gut. Big respect to Toby Pazner on keys whose vamp solo really hit home. Mister Fields himself still had energy enough to pogo jump towards the end of the tune, sparking the audience with in the intimate O2 Academy to do likewise.

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Photo: Courtesy of Siobhan Bradshaw

For want of a better term, the hits just kept on coming. The “My World” album was revisited for yet another crowd pleaser “Love Comes and Goes.” Cue the slow arm sway from side to side as Mr Fields’ disciples mirrored his every move.

With those in attendance still buzzing, Lee Fields and the Expressions transitioned into a uniquely stunning version of Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny.” After a slow and measured beginning the song morphed into a full on funk’d up and highly explosive track. The band was now in top gear, none more so than the engine room of The Expressions’, drummer Rudy Petschauer, keeping immaculate time and rhythm throughout this track and the entire evening.

As it transpired, this is to be the last song of the evening. While still pogo dancing, (as if in the House of Pain video) Lee Fields thanked the punters for coming to see him perform. Just from his body language, one could see he was grateful for being given a second chance in the limelight. As he walked off stage, the band continued to play what seemed to now be sped up version of “Sunny.” With the crowd baying for more, clapping their hands enthusiastically all band members then left the stage to raucous cacophony of gratitude. And you guessed it, it wasn’t long before his band were back out for a well-deserved and anticipated encore.

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Photo: Courtesy of Siobhan Bradshaw

And the noise got even louder once Mr Fields introduced the title track of his “Faithful Man” album with the line, “Now it’s time for me to tell you about the Faithful Man!” And he proceeded to do just that, giving a more than faithful rendition of an all too common tale – a man being tempted to be unfaithful by a younger woman.

Once again Lee and his band of merry jazz funk’n’soul men whipped their faithful crowd up into yet another frenzy of excitement toward the end of the song as Mr Fields duly reached out to shake hands with and thank his public. As the band played on, Lee Fields, dripping with soulful beads of sweat took his leave of the stage once more.

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Photo: Courtesy of Siobhan Bradshaw

No sooner had the band followed their Soul General off the stage for the second time, the decibel level within O2 Academy increased tenfold. The knowledgeable audience was not letting the main man leave the building without performing his cult classic, “Honey Dove.” Obligingly The Expressions made their way back to the stage and assumed their positions, with the man of the hour, too sweet to be sour, Lee Fields not far behind drinking in the atmosphere and adulation of his people.

And with the words “Let’s do something nice and slow,” the distinctive guitar rift intro played so delicately by Vincent John led into one of the most exquisite live versions of the song he’s ever performed. From the first slow and soulful bars, the crowd was hooked, with Lee feeling every word deep within as he sang them.

From this mellow, trancelike beginning the tune metamorphosed into an explosive piece of hard-core raw and emotive soulful passion, with Lee Fields arching his back and straining every sinew to hit his top-notes. I said it before and I’ll say again Messrs James Brown and Otis Redding would be in pure admiration having witnessed this performance. What a privilege it was to see a man still with the fire in his belly, the passion in his heart and soul in his gut, entertaining an audience less than half his age

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Photo: Courtesy of Siobhan Bradshaw

with such youthful enthusiasm. This time, after numerous handshakes and waving to the masses, one of the last true soul singers and performers departed the stage for the last time. I have no doubt that the cheering and whooping was ringing in his ears all the way down to his changing room in the bowels of O2 Academy. And he still had the energy to come back out 5 min later to autograph albums and singles for the next half hour to 40 mins. What a man! What a professional! What a singer! What a show!

Michael J Edwards

The Band:
Lee Fields – vocals
Toby Pazner – keys
Benjamin Trokan – bass
Rudy Petschauer – drums
Mike Buckley – sax
Vincent John – guitar
Jason Colby – trumpet

Essential albums:
Lee Fields – My World (Truth & Soul, 2009)
Lee Fields – Faithful Man (Truth & Soul, 2012)

Essential Websites:
http://truthandsoulrecords.com/
http://leefieldsandtheexpressions.com/tour/

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