Saturday, February 29, 2020

Samantha Fish - St Luke's, Glasgow, 28 February 2020

Samantha Fish is a stone-cold killer.  I’m a witness.  I saw her do it right in front of me, live on stage last night.
Let me explain.  It’s halfway through her show in Glasgow, and she straps on her mint green Fender Jaguar, saying they’re going to play a song that always makes people jump around, so “let’s start a bluesy mosh pit”.  Then she launches into a twangeroonie rendition of ‘Little Baby’, and the place goes nuts.  It’s such fun that in the midst of it she comes to the mic and makes a rather feeble attempt at a Jerry Lee Lewis-like shivering purr, then turns away to bassist Chris Alexander and laughs at herself.  Then Nicholas David, one of two keyboard players in the band for this tour, contributes a crunking
Sam Fish produces some vocal confections
organ workout.  But that’s nothing compared to the rollercoaster rock’n’roll guitar solo Fish delivers, en route to a wild, teasing duel with Scotty Graves’ thumping drums.  It's the moment a rockin' show definitively achieves escape velocity.
And then she does it.  She straps on her acoustic guitar, and announces they’re going to do a song from Nick David, whose recent album Yesterday’s Gone she produced.  So off they go, with David singing ‘Say Goodbye', from a 2013 EP of his – not even one of her own songs that the audience might know, fer chrissake!  I submit, your honour, that for most artists this would constitute a capital live performance crime, taking all the wild energy built up by ‘Little Baby’, and immediately diluting it with something gentle and unfamiliar.
But she gets away with it.  No cops invade the stage to slap the cuffs on her for killing the rock’n’roll buzz.  You know why?  For a start, because the song turns out to be a pleasure, building from a quiet opening into a delicious country-soul swinger, with Samantha adding sweet harmonies to David’s soulful vocal, and a pin-pricking acoustic solo for good measure.  But Samantha Fish also gets away with it because, frankly, she can.  She’s so good that no jury would convict.
This first night of Fish’s latest European tour began in dramatic fashion, with the apocalyptic strains of Richard Strauss’s ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ belting out into the converted church that's St Luke's, courtesy of Nick David and fellow keyboard honcho Phil Breen, as a wacky intro to David delivering his own ‘Hole In The Bottom’ in soulful fashion.  The main mademoiselle then makes her entrance, not too grandly, but all chiffon and leather and as tousle-haired as ever.  She grabs her cigar box guitar, and kicks off the foot-stomping ‘Bulletproof’.
It’s the cue for what feels like a sprint through several of the songs from her latest album Kill Or Be Kind, starting with the title track, initiated by loosely funky bass from Alexander and featuring dangerously girlish, femme fatale vocals, before she switches to her semi-acoustic guitar, heralding a spell of gritty low-end slide and a dirty groove from the band, embellished by piano frills and swirls of synth.  It segues into ‘Watch It Die’, all fist-pumping, arm-waving and vocal gymnastics from Fish as a preface to a singalong bridge and a ripping guitar solo on the stage apron.
Testifyin' her innocence
‘Love Letters’ is subtle, notwithstanding the heavy duty that Fish grinds out, but the country-tinged ‘She Don’t Live Her Anymore’ trumps that with its dynamics, a big chorus, and a terrific organ solo in typical nose-to-the-grindstone fashion from Phil Breen, who’s become one of my favourite keyboard players in the last year or two.  ‘You Got It Bad’ has a pounding intro, and halfway through Samantha signals a solo by announcing that “I’m gonna go for it now!”  But she doesn’t really, not right away, saving herself for a more fulsome bluesy ending – and then for ‘Little Baby’.
After Nick David’s showcase a slinky intro develops into the bluesy, rocking ‘No Angels’, on which Breen contributes another cracking solo over crunching, guns-blazing Peter Gunn-style riffing from the others, and Fish adds further texture with some drunken-sounding slide.  That texturing is nothing compared to the near-psychedelic ‘Dream Girl’ though, on which they concoct squiggling sounds and keyboards making like lapping waves, while Fish slides her voice around confections of notes, and conjures up a soaring, ‘Albatross’-like slide break.
They hammer out the brooding rocker ‘Highway’s Holding Me Now’, which is good, though I'd prefer to hear 'Show Me' or 'Turn It Up' getting a run out.  Then they lay back again for the delight that is the aching ‘Fair-weather’, its hints of the Mop Tops surrendering to the simple, lovely melody, so that even the inevitable chatterers hush themselves.
And then there’s only time for a blast through ‘Bitch On The Run’ before the curfew slams down, with a hurtling keys duel between Breen and David that clearly entertain Fish herself, showcases for Alexander’s bass and Graves’ excellent drumming – this lot are a seriously damn good band now, by the way.  Then the crowd chuck themselves heartily into the usual call-and-response singalong, and that’s it, no encore as they have, as Fish puts it, “blown the whole show”.  But I don’t hear anyone complaining as they exit the hall to the strains of Frank Sinatra singing ‘Witchcraft’.
All the same, there are a couple of things I reckon Samantha Fish needs to do.  She’s gonna have to lengthen her set a bit, if her voice can take it, to do justice to her growing repertoire and give her room to stretch.  And next time she comes to Scotland, she should be booked into a much bigger room.  If the stone-cold killer is going to be convicted of anything, it should be for slaying bigger audiences than this.

You can find the set list for the show via setlist.fm here.
You can read a review of the London show on 5 March here.

2 comments:

  1. Alls I know is that she ADORES her European Fans & looks forward to this tour every time.
    The support she receives through SOLD OUT SHOWS is truely HeartFelt.

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  2. Her set was constricted by a common Glasgow problem: the curfew. She plays 1hr 50 min set in the USA.
    When she transfers to larger venues the prices will be out of my reach. But that is career progression and I recognise that.
    The issue of the curfew needs revision.

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