We're only halfway through the first song of Lee Field's show at The Magic Stick and he calls for a towel. He's sweating. Bigtime. Just moments earlier he's given a grand introduction by his band, The Expressions, a sextet of brass, strings, ivory and percussion, who sway in unison as they set the scene. Lee emerges from the back curtains decked out in all white. A pearl white suit, white shirt and white shoes, donned to perfection. The man looks good. He's sans shades and his signature pinky ring pops in the stage lights as he clutches the mic. His presence lifts the room as he addresses the crowd. He hasn't sung a note, but there's no question those pipes are the real deal. He says he's here tonight "for one thing, and one thing only." Ladies and gentlemen Mr. Lee Fields is here tonight to make you happy, and there's no reason to believe otherwise. The house is all his.
Rewind the day a few hours and it's a different scene altogether. We've arranged a little pre-show adventure for the band and I've just heard from their manager (and band member) Toby that they'll need a ride. That last detail has me a little nervous as I haul ass down Woodward Avenue toward the venue realizing my new car is a small hatchback and I'll need to carry Lee and half The Expressions plus instruments. Thankfully it's a short trip, 10 blocks give or take, and the band doesn't seem to mind the squeezed porter to our destination, the historic Park Shelton building. We quickly park and make our way through the lobby. Lee likes the vibe. I explain a bit of the history as we walk toward the lift. In its original incarnation as a luxury residence hotel, it would be common to spot a famous artist, actor or comedian of the time. Today, the celebrity sighting is Lee.
Our elevator chugs up 12 stories and we pour out onto the rooftop. Lee strides enthusiastically toward the far railing and soaks in the skyline. In dark jeans, a hoody, and aviators with full reflection, he's the cool, relaxed mirror of his on-stage presence. We quickly set up behind the scenes as a saxophone serenades. Just as our camera is ready to go, the sky takes an ominous turn; what was moments-earlier a perfectly sunny late afternoon in Detroit, quickly flips overcast and gusty. Rather than wait for another sunburst, this seems like an ideal moment to film. We roll as the band starts into a slightly stripped-down rendition of "Wish You Were Here", and in one take, from our lofty vantage point, Lee turns this mournful tune into something more hopeful. And with a nod to the moment at hand, the sky opens up just as Lee belts out the line one last time. We take it all in just as it's time to pack up. I wish you were here.
- Andy Martin
Built in 1926, the Wardell Hotel (now The Park Shelton) was originally intended as a residential hotel, providing the most luxurious furnishings and exquisite dining in all of Detroit. Diego Rivera lived in the hotel in the early 1930s while he completed his famous fresco just down the block at the Detroit Institute of Arts. The hotel was bought by Sheraton in the 1940s, and was finally renamed The Park Shelton Hotel a decade later. Due to the deluxe style and prime location, the building remained popular among celebrities passing through Detroit over the years. Eventually converted to apartments the Park Shelton was home to generations of local residents of the city, from Professors, to auto tycoons, to students and others. In 2004 the building underwent renovations and was then reopened and marketed to the public as luxury condominiums as it still exists today.