LEE FIELDS & THE EXPRESSIONS
Live at Tavastia Club, Helsinki, Finland - November 14, 2012
(1) Going Home (2) King Alcohol (3) You Don't Love Me (4) I, Me & Myself (5) I Get Suspicious (6) Cherry Pie (7) The Town (N62 52,396 E 24 12.388)
(8) That's Allright (9) Someday (10) Lasting Kind (11) I'm Your Shadow
Could ther be any better place to be and witness a proper soul music show in the darkening night of November at the suitably-crowded Tavastia Club in Helsinki. I had not heard much about a man before I noticed an information about the gig at the Tavastia website. After a preliminary examination I found out that this is an event not to be missed. Lee Field has a long, complex and discontinous musical career behind him, starting in the 60's. His own recordings are rather rare, and in different styles. His most powerful weapon is a rolling J. Brown funk in the short formula and a strong soul charisma, but there are also other fields plowed with sense and skill.
Lee Fields has made recordings infrequently during last ten years for American small soul-funk specialized labels, such as BDA, Desco, Soul Fire and Truth & Soul. He's kind of grown in peace in the shadows of Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones. Sharon Jones sold out the Tavastia Club in the spring (2012), so the young and enthusiastic audience now arrived was no surprise. The reception was raucous and fiery. It seems that this young and "hipster"-dubbed audience in large in the metropolitan area has taken this genre with an open heart. In a black music magazine (such as BN) this should be noticed and considered as a positive news. At the same time the black soul music has become more easily accessible through various streamable cloud services. It seems, however, that the younger generation appreciates live club and festival experiences. Sharon Jones Charles Bradley have both been to Finland a couple of times. I also believe that these concerts increase the demand for more at least in the metropolitan area. Soul and funk music has been played in Helsinki clubs from times of Acid Jazz since the 1990's. For Soul people the ownership of tangible retro vinyls has always been a matter of the heart. This genre also sinks to my own older age group at least in a live situation, which has been proven in the Soul gigs at the Pori Jazz festival, but this time at Tavastia this part of population was under-represented.
Lee Fields was accompanied by a white soul band, a Soul & Truth label house band. Apparently, this group coming from New York is similat to those group configurations that have been with Charles Bradley and Sharon Jones. They can handle soul, funk and soaring Southern Soul indisputably well. Brass section, key board player, guitarist and the rhythm section. In general, the bands have a clear leader, who leads and commands the other players. In these groups it seems that the players have a long common stage experience. Playing is always assured, modern and soulful. As was the case at Tavastia. In Finland we have similar convincing bands. One in this genre is the Soul Investigators led by Didier Selin, and I just saw them with Nicole Willis in the “Lost in Music” event in Tampere, Finland, where they offered a tough and rooty set. A new album with Willis is coming out soon.
Lee Fields showed a great sense of nuances througout the gig without losing intensity for a moment. The band did not render much solos but rather gave the playing field to Fields, who let his voice and fine melodies do the work. At the same time the energy level was high. The gig became well over an hour-long fireworks, which was awarded by the audience demanding an encore, which was Sunny by Bobby Hebb, probably familiar to everybody. We heard quite a bunch of songs from two latest Fields' albums. “Ladies” showed that Fields can convince the women with his charm and style. “Wish You Were Here” told the father-son story that was of pure tearing southern soul at its deepest. “Faithful Man” was of the same series and the band showed its ability to compress the arrangement to quintessentials of Southern Soul. One cover heard was “Here Today, Gone Tomorrow” by the Ohio Players. That same song was performed by David Bowie in his soul-period, in the opening of the year 1974 tour as recorded in the “David Live” album. Fields' stage presence and dressing style is visible in a YouTube clip taken in the front row of the Tavastia Club. In a more funky James Brown cover “Money Is King” Fields showed that the rhythmic stage steps, soulful groaning and sweaty groove is in control in the category of "age well over 60 years”. A very memorable club night at Tavastia is therefore my final verdict, and I am not certainly the only one to back this. Welcome again, why not to the “Funky Elephant” festival at the same saloon next spring!