North Carolina soul revivalists Lee Fields & The Expressions dropped into Manchester this week, bringing with them a back catalogue of soul music stretching back to the mid-1960s, and forty years experience playing with outfits such as Kool & the Gang. Tonight, they perform under railway arches of Gorilla, packed to the brim of soul-loving music fans and it was clear from the start this was to be an atmospheric and exciting evening.
Five-piece backing band The Expressions took to the stage to get things started as the anticipation built up amongst the crowd. Playing a real funk instrumental piece with bass groovier than ever, they master the foundations of soul with horns, bass and vocal harmonies to really bring sixties music back to life. With the audience thoroughly warmed up, “Mr Lee Fields” was introduced onto the stage. “Ya’ll ready to party?” Fields exclaimed, the crowd whistle and scream as he strolls onto the stage, plunging into the song ‘I Still Got It’. Brimming with off-beat percussion, deep bass and saxophone, this sound is the epitome of soul-funk. The title of the song proved evident, as Field’s cruised through the blue smoke-ridden light with moves that helped inspire his ‘Lil JB’ nickname, transporting the audience straight into the 60s.
Slowing it down slightly, a song inspired by Field’s love of gambling, the soul veteran entered into ‘Just Can’t Win’, a funky melody backed up by keys and evoking strong blues/jazz vibes that perfectly accompanied Lee’s husky vocals. The Expressions lean over just the one mic, harmonising with backing “woo-oos” over an isolated bass guitar. Under the golden pops of light, the crowd nod their heads to an incredibly infectious beat.
Ending a thrilling, dynamic and nostalgic set, Fields finishes with ‘Wish You Were Here’, a heart-wrenchingly soulful and particularly emotional piece for the singer, but one of his most popular and rightly so. With catchy guitar riffs adding to an even catchier, funky melody the singer winds things down, concluding the show under Gorilla’s mellow purple lights. The only one enjoying themselves more than the crowd was Lil JB himself.
Lee Fields & The Expressions performed at Gorilla on Wednesday 24th January 2018. Words by Steph Kettle.
Fancy listening to some of the best artists performing across Manchester in the coming months? Listen below for our latest playlist previewing those in town for this month’s best shows!