Lee Fields & The Expressions Upstairs Cabaret, Victoria BC, July 2

Lee Fields & The Expressions Upstairs Cabaret, Victoria BC, July 2
Photo: Kim Jay
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In the right hands, soul music is at once a timeless artefact linked to a very specific time and place and a vital, living piece of art bursting with immediate passion. On Wednesday night (July 2) in a tiny club in Victoria, Lee Fields & The Expressions proved once again they have the right hands. If there is such a thing as "hard soul," this is how it's defined. The Expressions are a well-oiled soul machine, each part working for the whole; they are there to support the ridiculously powerful vocal chords of Lee Fields.

As Fields took to the stage, the Expressions already up there wailing away, he snatched up the mic and said, "I know y'all came here to party so we might as well get this party started!" And once the whole unit was onstage together, they started burning immediately. "I Still Got It" from Faithful Man sounded far more thunderous than its album version, with the bottom end so heavy it felt like the dance floor might collapse under its weight. "Just Can't Win" from Fields' latest, Emma Jean, popped and jumped with its slinky guitar. Fields sticks pretty much to singing about love and all of the glorious torture it inflicts upon the human heart (That might be why good soul is so timeless) and while he's great at it, a track like "Win" really helped change the mood just enough that Fields could go back to unabashedly screeching and singing to and for the ladies.

The Expressions were tight and heavy, the songs strong and full of life, but Fields left no doubt that he was the star. The cat sang every note like his life depended on it (his screams at the end of "Faithful Man," especially, were testament to that). He stalked the small stage like some kind of tiny soul wolverine (a "soulverine," if you will), jumping with ease between soulful crooning and what sounded like the wailing of the angelic damned.

Fields ended the night by coming out for his sole encore track shirtless, his torso covered with only his half-floral print vest. It was an undoubtedly baller-ass move from maybe the slickest soul-man rocking today.