Wednesday, July 20, 2022

Samantha Fish - Ex-Convento di Santa Chiara, Piacenza, 17 July 2022

On Saturday night Samantha Fish and co were in Haapsalu, Estonia.  On Sunday they’re here in Piacenza, Italy.  Two countries and two very different languages, 1500 miles and probably 10 degrees Celsius apart.  Such is the European blues festival circuit.
Tonight’s gig is among the semi-ruined, scaffolding-propped cloisters of a former Convent, which is in the process of being salvaged as a community space.  You think Delta blues is old school?  
"Now, which knob do I twiddle here again?"
This place is way, way older.  But it swiftly gets jolted into the 21st century when the Fish ensemble take the stage and let rip with a gutsy and rocking rendition of ‘Bulletproof’.
‘All Ice No Whiskey’ continues the latterday slant to the set with its funky dance feel, and I could have enjoyed it going on longer before an organ glissando heralded a crunch into ‘Twisted Ambition’, which Fish elevates – if that’s the word – from the album version by chiselling out some screaming guitar breaks.
The show is evidently sold out, but to a surprisingly small audience, who are all plonked on plastic seats while a bundle of professional snappers patrol the front of the stage with fearsomely large cameras.  So Samantha is being a bit optimistic, I think to myself, when she says she hopes she’ll see people up and dancing before long.
It doesn’t matter for now though, as they roll through ‘Hello Stranger’ in a manner that shows the song is anything but a stranger.  It’s gentle and sparkling, cool and sassy, before being ratcheted up into a crescendo.  A rumbling opening to ‘No Angels’ follow, and if the crowd still aren’t on their feet there are at least pockets of singing along to the “No there ain’t” lines of the chorus.  Sam essays a downbeat slide passage, then breaks loose into a solo that rises to fever pitch, cooled off with a slinky final vocal segment.
‘Better Be Lonely’ is a spiky pleasure, while ‘Kill Or Be Kind’ now seems to make more of the incipient menace in a character who offers her lover the alternatives of the title, having already “put the fear of god in you”.  It segues into a slide passage for which Samantha straps on a peachy looking Les Paul, building towards some big, torn-out chords then escalating frenzy over walloping drums from Sarah Tomek – so much frenzy in fact, that two cymbals take a tumble from the drum riser – all in the service of introducing a fierce take on ‘Watch It Die’.
The band take a break as Fish picks up an acoustic and underlines the blues theme of this ‘Dal
Have Les Paul, will travel!
Mississippi Al Po’ series of summer shows by playing ‘Jim Lee Blues Pt 1’, with some nice picking and a truly bluesy vocal, followed up by a very personal and intimate sounding take on ‘Need You More’.
As the band get back on stage another prompt from Fish finally gets the crowd down the front in time to dance and sing along to ‘Bitch On The Run’, which is followed by the scratchy and infernally ‘So Called Lover’, which could easily be taken for a homage to Blondie, and it the high-flying vocals on the chorus can’t cut through the density of the guitar and rhythm section it doesn’t matter – its infectious, ragged energy is enough to make it work.
The sweet swirl of ‘Dream Girl’ offers some respite for a while, until eventually it soars skywards on Fish’s solo, driven on by Ron Johnson’s propulsive bass.  This is a mere appetiser though, for the wild rollercoaster of ‘Black Wind Howlin’’ with which they close the set.  You need to do something dramatic to pull anyone’s focus from Samantha Fish during a live performance, but Holy Moly, Sarah Tomek does just that on this occasion, with a display of ferocious, jaw-dropping batterismo, as they might call it in these parts.
As she tunes up for the encore, Fish notices a poster for a Sam Fish tribute band dubbed The Runaways, after the title track of her first album.  “You probably know the words better than I do these days,” she observes.  Which is a shame, because like a lot of her early material, it’s better than she seems to think.  Still, it’s good to see that songs from Faster, state-of-the-art twists and all, slot in nicely alongside older stuff to produce a coherent, rocking show.  And just to underline her blues-heavy roots, they bring down the curtain with a substantial, hard-hitting, and dynamic rendition of ‘Shake ‘Em Down’ that draws satisfied cheers from the now dancing audience.
It was a pretty darned hot night in Piacenza.  This show from Samantha Fish and her band added their own cocktail of chills and fever to the atmosphere.  (See what I did there?)
 
You can watch some clips of the Piacenza show here.

Check out Samantha Fish’s upcoming shows in Europe and the United States on her website, here.

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