Despite giving a shout-out to all womankind via the women in attendance at Club Soda on Wednesday night – observing that without their unique birthing abilities, none of us would be around (hardly Pulitzer-prize winning science, but hey…) – when Lee Fields started singing about all the “lovely ladies, beautiful ladies, you’re so fine,” I don’t think he was serenading my mom. At least I hope not.
The soul-funk veteran – accompanied by seven-piece support band The Expressions – whose career launched in the late-’60s tore several smokin’ strips off Club Soda yesterday, June 27, playing both old and new, including tunes from his recently released Treacherous LP.
Fields was last in Montreal two years ago, appearing at a Pop Montreal concert at Sala Rossa that saw the 60-year-old North Carolina native playing to a packed house of mostly twenty-something, albeit hugely appreciative, Montreal hipsters. It was a curious scene, to say the least. Unreservedly fun, mind you, but still the other side of odd.
The (comparatively) diverse, nearly-full Club Soda Jazz Fest crowd seemed a little more his speed, and Fields and The Expressions – phenomenal players all – got down to business right off the gun. Much of Fields’ new material could have been ripped straight out of the ’60s R&B songbook of old, and his ever-increasingly rehabilitated “authenticity” (Fields was never better than a second-tier soul star even at his late-’70s peak) seems to have touched a chord with Montrealers, who unfailingly love an underdog.
The high point had to have been a truly inspired and transporting version of Could Have Been, which saw Fields – using his trademark soul screams to maximum effect – accompanied by solo guitar on this old-school R&B lament that rips at the heartstrings. After laying it bare through the body of the song, the rest of the band came thundering in on cue to take the tune out on a dramatic, jacked-up, hair-raising outro absent on the original studio recording. Rocking, rolling and, above all, righteous.
The only complaint has nothing whatsoever to do with Fields or his exceptional Expressions, but rather the programming of the show: Why in the world would anyone plan this for a 7 pm start? What a waste of a party.