Lee Fields on the past, the future, God, and the cosmos

The house band is absent when Lee Fields walks onto Carnegie Hall’s gilded, wide-open Isaac Stern Auditorium stage for the 17th annual Van Morrison tribute show. A hard-touring 68-year-old soul singer originally from Wilson, North Carolina, Fields spent decades searching for the right back-up — a group of musicians who could match the crackling, aching ecstasy in his lungs. He found that in the Expressions a few years ago, and he’s not about to change things up now. The horn players take their positions, the rhythm section settles in, and Fields saunters out in a black jacket with gold stitching that matches the room’s grandeur.

Fields is here to perform “And It Stoned Me,” from Morrison’s 1970 album Moondance. The crowd quietens down and Fields stands still, momentarily seeming intimidated by the spectacle. Guitar chords echo and the hi-hat fizzes while Fields sings the first verse: “Half a mile from the county fair / And the rain came pourin’ down.” The crowd, entirely seated, stares back — but then the pre-chorus hits. From his first single in 1969 and the funk-addled R&B of the ‘70s through the unlikely house collaborations of the early ‘00s and the soulful love songs of his past decade, Fields has thrived on the crescendo — the rising tide of horns and howls, the swell of the band and the opportunity for his voice to burst through.

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