Saturday, May 11, 2019

Sam Fish Hits Scotland, Episode 2 - Oran Mor, Glasgow, 10 May 2019

Tony Joe White should really have written a song called ‘Rainy Night In Glasgow’.  We get 57 varieties of rain in Scotland, and tonight it’s a sudden downpour that soaks you just walking a few hundred yards, so that a succession of sodden punters turn up at Oran Mor.  In a little while though, braving the rain will be well worth it, to experience a band that are on fire.
Samantha Fish and her gang had set the bar eye-wateringly high in Edinburgh the previous night, and if tonight they don’t stoke up exactly the same intensity, they get close enough as makes no difference, while the show also benefits from the snazzier lighting that Oran Mor has to offer.
Samantha Fish fires off combination punches on guitar and vocals
The band take the stage in darkness, and immediately assert their confidence by opening the show with ‘Bulletproof’, Fish sporting her recent innovation of red diamond make-up over her right eye for good measure.  The fact that the song is unreleased doesn’t matter a jot.  Its strong hook and Samantha letting loose on cigar box guitar, augmented by strobe lights, are plenty enough combination punches to garner a roar of approval.
The other new songs, ‘Love Letters’ and ‘Watch It Die’, are positioned in the middle and towards the end of the set respectively.  Introducing the first, Sam says “It’s a new song, so don’t be mean if it sucks.”  Fat chance.  Seems to me it’s a darker song than it appears at first blush, a tale of someone taken for granted perhaps, and the musical balance of sweetness and desperation again has the desired impact on the audience.  ‘Watch It Die’, meanwhile, is alternately hot and cool before building to an overwrought ending that is surely the work of a woman who used to rock out to AC/DC.
Contrasting highlights come in the form of ‘Gone For Good’ and the following ‘Go Home’.  The former is again delivered with her Jaguar rather than the cigar box, indicative of her constant readiness to try something different. And apart from the infernal catchiness of the
Singing songs of sweetness and desperation
intertwined rhythm and guitar line, it’s increasingly becoming the Sam’n’Phil show as Fish trades guitar and organ breaks with keyboard player Phil Breen en route to a crunching ending.  The crowd are hollering fit to bust at this point, but the next minute they fall impeccably silent as she dons her acoustic and starts picking her way through the opening bars of ‘Go Home’.  It’s such a simple, restrained but beautiful song, and I daresay I wasn’t the only one quietly crooning along with bassist Chris Alexander and drummer Scotty Graves on their “go home” backing vocals.  It makes good use of ringing acoustic chords over Breen’s organ, and between them they contrive a gentle, delicious ending.
Tonight both ‘Don’t Say You Love Me’ and ‘Cowtown’ also feature in the first half of the set. The former starts out blue and soulful, while country leanings are apparent in the latter, yet both emerge as entirely distinctive pieces of Americana.
It’s intriguing how some songs suddenly come to the fore on the road.  On this tour ‘You Can’t Go’ has become a real humdinger, and tonight it’s notable how Fish wrenches its fuzzed up solo out of her guitar.  And later she introduces ‘Little Baby’ by saying “It’s nice and sweaty already, so let’s do some bouncing.”  Which is exactly what happens as they turn it near-as-dammit into a slice of rockabilly, as without the horns Fish’s rollicking, brittle-toned guitar comes to the fore over Alexander’s rollercoaster bass runs.
Sam’s biting closing solo on ‘Daughters’ evolves into a wall of noise to herald the closing ‘Crow Jane’, by which time the crowd are going nuts.  And when the band return from a brief disappearance to encore with ‘Bitch On The Run’ they’re even more ready to launch into the singalong section than in Edinburgh the night before.
This was another tour de force performance from Fish and her band, and it was evident they’d wowed the capacity audience.  Samantha Fish is turning into a force of nature, one of a select band of artists who can overwhelm you with their material, musicianship, unique vocals, and unstoppable performance levels.
Curse Of Lono - dark, acerbic and expressive
Once again, support band Curse Of Lono evidently have a sizeable number of their own fans in attendance, and I’ll warrant that by the end of their set they’ll have acquired some more.  As dark and acerbic as their lyrics are, they deliver some top quality songs in a winning manner, whether it’s the bass-laden son of ‘Wild Thing’ that is set-opener ‘Blackout Fever’, the easy rolling rhythm of ‘London Rain’, or the undeniably catchy ‘Way To Mars’.  ‘No Trouble’ is a song about loss with a suitably elegiac tone until guitarist Joe Hazell cuts through it with a typically expressive, clear-toned solo – though they too often tend to end songs on his solo, without a definitive chorus or coda, following what I’m sure is a deliberate policy of denial.  Whatever, their new album 4am And Counting is due out in July, and I’d bet this tour will attract new takers for it.

You can find a review of the show in Newcastle on 7 May here, and a review of the Edinburgh show on 9 May here.

Samantha Fish Set List
Chills And Fever
You Can't Go
Don't Say You Love Me
Love Letters
Little Baby
Blood In The Water
Gone For Good
Go Home
Watch It Die
Crow Jane
Bitch On The Run

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