Samantha Fish is the epitome of fire and ice, at once one of the hottest talents on the planet but also effortlessly supercool. With the critically acclaimed release of the superb ‘Kill or Be Kind’ last year adding to her list of albums, she hit the road once more for an extensive tour to support it and, in her second full UK tour in a year, showed why the live arena is her natural home.
First off though, there was sterling support from young French guitarist Felix Rabin who displayed, in a tight and dazzling thirty–minute set, a uniquely European take on blues that mixed elements of rock, soul and even pop.
‘Down Our Roads’ was an attention–grabbing opener, a straight–forward rocker that echoed the style of the legendary Stevie Ray Vaughn in its flair and attack, Rabin attacking the fretboard in a manner that was both hard bitten and seemingly effortless. ‘Say’ continued to up the ante and, displaying a much more Summery and laid-back groove, ‘Moving On’ utterly charmed, the riff gently twisting and caressing.
The familiar opening phrasing of Hendrix’s ‘Voodoo Child’ opened up into a full blooded and extended workout that really let free his rock wildman side before ‘Find Me’ brought a more mellow side, leading into “Walk’, closing the set with a huge sounding modern rock blues sound rammed full of harmonies. With a growing profile, there’s going to be a lot more seen of this young guitar slinger.
It was time for the main event, but not before a delicious build up as this tour has seen the addition of the brilliant Nicholas David as an additional keys, performing his own ‘Hole in the Bottom’ before leading the band into ‘Love Your Lies’ as Samantha Fish strolled onstage to join them.
Looking a million dollars in a leopard print top, black leather trousers and wind tousled blonde hair she started peeling out the riffs from her cigar box guitar and launched into the irresistible, diamond edged slide of ‘Bulletproof’. A scorching and sublime ‘Kill or Be Kind’ followed and then the railroading rhythms of ‘Watch Me Die’ had the audience transfixed, her distinctive vocals a mix of blues, soul and country.
Most in the audience seemed to be well acquainted with the new album as the first six numbers played were from it, all going down incredibly well and received like old friends.
Speaking volumes about the phenomenal songwriting on the new release, each one immediately taken to collective hearts as ‘Love Letters’ and ‘You Got It Bad’ were met with warm cheers. Longtime keys man Phil Breen dazzled, matching the dexterity and feel of the guitarist, the two trading licks as the bass of Chris Alexander and Scott Graves drums rumble and groove underneath.
Also, it must be said that David has been a great and natural addition to the line-up, his playing and voice reminiscent of Dr John and giving a real downhome Louisiana tint to his band-mates own shades of sonic palettes. After a brilliant ‘American Dream’ it was his turn at the microphone again with ‘Say Goodbye’ highlighting his rich timbre as Fish accompanied on an acoustic guitar, nodding appreciatively at his chops.
‘Little Baby’ is a glorious mash up, part country rock, part Stax soul, part rocking do wop that has everyone in the place moving and grooving before the low riding blues of ‘No Angels’ sweeps everyone away in a red Cadillac festooned with gleaming chrome. Featuring another scorching duel between Fish and Breen, the song sounds like a storm coming as the slide guitar work whips up a tornado, the five musicians onstage caught at a crossroads filled with joy and utter commitment to the music as it becomes all consuming.
‘Dream Girl’ sees an almost psychic connection between the bandmates, a totally gelling rock ‘n’ roll machine that seems unstoppable as it reaches for ‘Bitch on the Run’, the final number. Whilst it’s Fish’s band and she holds the attention of those assembled like some mythological Siren, there’s no sense of her hogging the spotlight as she very happily steps back to let everyone have their turn to shine, both Alexander and Graves getting their time to solo. The chance for audience participation didn’t let down as the low ceiling shook at the call and response engendered, the whole thing building into a rush of euphoria that couldn’t have been stopped.
The encore stared with another one of David’s songs in the warm shape of ‘With or Without’ before Fish tore into some magnificent slide work on her cigar box guitar again for their version of Bukka White’s ‘Shake ‘Em On Down’.
Bringing to mind Led Zep at their early 70’s finest, the number was a total powerhouse, ending the evening on the sort of joyful note that a Fourth of July firework display encapsulates, multi coloured, wonderous and thrilling. Given just how good she is already, it’s frightening to think just what Samantha Fish will achieve in a few more years. Genuinely, the sky is the limit for her and she’s set on a course to be one of the most important artists of this and any other generation. Unstoppable.
Review by Paul Monkhouse
Photography by Laurence Harvey Photography