DATE: Friday 1st March 2020
VENUE: Rock City in Nottingham, UK
Reviews & Photography by Mark Holmes
Opening up the evening is French blues guitarist/singer, Félix Rabin, who, with a drummer and bassist in tow, works his way through a short set of blues rock, and more pop-oriented blues, along with a touch of Hendrix in the form of a nice enough cover of ‘Voodoo Child’. I do sometimes question the validity of up and coming support artists who squander a short set time by including covers rather than maximising the opportunity to promote all of their own material, but it’s the Hendrix track that seems to excite Nottingham’s audience the most, so I guess it works effectively as a crowd pleaser; getting punters on his side. And if a ninety nine per cent static crowd in Rock City tonight seems unmoved (literally) during each song Rabin and his rhythm section performs, they let rip with appreciative applause at the end of each track. All in all, certainly a name to watch, and an undoubted talent, but I feel that Rabin is only just starting to find his feet and getting into his stride, rather than bounding forth into widespread reverence within the scene.
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Samantha Fish at Rock City in Nottingham, UK, 1st March 2020
Photograph copyright © 2020 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com
At 9pm, house lights are dimmed, as Strauss’ ‘Also Sprach Zarathustra’ plays through the PA; a piece of music that’s found its way into popular culture via Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’ and, of course, Elvis Presley’s intro music at his shows during the 1970s. Now, it’s Samantha Fish’s turn to use the piece, but there’s no big entrance for her just yet; rather, her band wander out onto the stage and perform a Fish-free song, with one of the two keys guys, Nicholas David, singing. ‘Hole in the Bottom’ is the tune, and it’s apparently one of his own, as we’d later be informed, when Fish mentions on multiple occasions that David has his own album out. Apart from resembling the sadly deceased Chas Hodges from Rockney legends Chas 'n' Dave, I can’t help but think the guy’s just turned up for his own promo tour! He is a new addition to Fish’s band for this tour, and he’s certainly making his mark.
Anyway, it's a solid enough start, but I like a bit of Fish with my chips and, soon enough, the lady herself appears (wouldn't it be great if her backing band were actually called "Chips"? Samantha Fish and the Chips… no?) After sliding around on her cigar box guitar, she chugs out the opening riff of the first track, ‘Bulletproof’, from her latest album, ‘Kill Or Be Kind’. It feels like the set’s started good and proper now, which is a sentiment seemingly shared by a packed Rock City, as punters in the main hall are noticeably more animated and vociferous since Fish’s appearance. I say animated, but we’re talking heads bobbing back and forth rather than any major action on the floor. It’s a respectful audience who are there to enjoy the music of an ever rising star, and they certainly make themselves heard between songs, with cheers, whoops and ubiquitous loud applause.
Two microphones feature at times, both vintage and modern, along with several guitar changes (all vintage), but it’s the same quality performance from a mightily talented lady. And said new album is heavily represented in Fish’s set this evening, as she works her way through rousing live renditions of mid-tempo, soulfully sultry numbers including the title track and ‘Watch It Die’, as well as down-tempo, more lushly mellow pieces such as ‘Dirty’ and ‘Dream Girl’. In particular, the latter sounds magnificently and masterfully sublime, delivered with all the cool grace of an artist who can evidently turn up the emotional dial in more ways than one. Beautiful.
A word about Fish’s rhythm section - rather magnificent. In particular, sticksman Scott Graves, who resembles Ginger Baker in his hairy heyday, bashes the skins in a similarly untamed, yet refined, way. This man cranks up the energy levels of the performance in a one-man display of drumming savagery, yet reels in the beast for the mellower pieces, proving he’s as adept at the gentlest of touches around his kit. A fantastic musician.
Further David tracks feature as part of his promo tour…‘Say Goodbye’ being one, which is bundled together with yet another mention of his own album. But this is predominantly the Samantha Fish show and, if you ever wanted evidence of a musician's escalating popularity on these shores, beyond any expectations, then this is your lady and Rock City in Nottingham on 1st March 2020 is the venue and occasion. Originally due to take place in the 450 capacity Rescue Rooms around the corner, the venue was upgraded many weeks ago, axiomatically due to very healthy pre-sales. And Rock City, this evening, is packed with what seems like three times the Rescue Rooms capacity. A worthy upgrade, as it transpired.
With a pre-encore airing of ‘Bitch on the Run’, Fish leads the crowd into a sing-along - “Right now, right now, I’m feeling it”, with the concomitant assertion that it currently feels like a Friday night, rather than a Sunday. At the track’s conclusions she exits the stage with her band, before reappearing a couple of minutes later for the age-old clichéd encore routine. Two more songs are performed, the first of which sees fake-Chas airing another one of his songs, ‘I’m Interested’ (from his new album, apparently, if you didn’t realise) - a likeable funk-lite piece, while Fish and her band subsequently wrap up the evening with a Bukka White number, ‘Shake ’Em On Down’. The crowd’s thinned out ever so slightly towards the end of the night, as a number of people leave both before and during the first encore track, so I guess it doesn’t feel like Friday for everyone, as a blues rock show turns into the looming and stark realisation of Monday morning blues for some.
After tonight’s phenomenal show, I was going to say Fish is destined for illustrious stardom but, quite honestly, she's already a star, and one that's primed to shine even brighter in the future. Some artists have innate star quality and Fish not only conveys such with her very presence and performance, but works her way through a 1 hour 45 mins set of blues and beyond with all the cool charisma of a lady who’s indubitably destined for even bigger things. Watch this space! Actually, no, watch the space down the road, as Nottingham’s Motorpoint Arena surely beckons in the near future.
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