His backing band, the Expressions, having laid down a crisp groove, soul survivor Lee Fields bounded onto the bright Forum stage in an even brighter red sequined jacket.
"Did you come here to party?" he yelped. "Well, let's get this party started!"
The crowd eagerly responded as Fields launched into "I'm Coming Home" from his latest record, Special Night. That album dominated the early part of the show's setlist — as clear a statement as could be that this was not a nostalgia performance. Fields has been making music for nearly 50 years, but it's the music he's making now that he wants to put front-and-centre.
I was wondering, going into the show, whether there was enough power in Fields' classic sound to overcome the sad truth about the show: this was supposed to be Charles Bradley's set, with Fields taking his slot following the announcement that Bradley's cancer had returned and, subsequently, his sad passing just about a month ago. Bradley's sets at Sappyfest 2011 the 2012 Halifax Jazz Fest sets are legendary in these parts. Given that some in the crowd had paid for Bradley, would Fields be able to win them over?
Enthusiasm goes a long way in such circumstances, and Fields' call-and-response gestures and shriekingly strong voice kept prompting the crowd, over and over again, and the crowd responded in kind. The Expressions added a harder, rock edge to the material at times, a nice fit for the stage, and Fields put the energetic work into songs like "Work to Do" and "You Just Can't Win" to make for a fun, engaging headlining set.