Review: Greg Philllips Photos: Jason Rosewarne
On a hot sweaty St.Kilda night in a packed venue lean on air conditioning, if ever an act was suited to these conditions it’s Samantha Fish and her rockin’ bandmates. Samantha Fish first blew us away at Bluesfest in Byron Bay back in 2019 and if it hadn’t been for the dreaded pandemic, I’m sure we would have seen her back earlier. Four years down the track she has released several new quality recordings and with many more road miles under their belt, the Samantha Fish band was cherry ripe to knock our socks off and that’s exactly what they proceeded to do. In her first trip to Melbourne and second show in a row at Memo Music Hall, armed with her cigar box slide, she kicked off with Bulletproof, the lead single from her 4th album ‘Kill or Be Kind’, a perfect stomper to set the mood for the night.
Twisted Ambition from her current album Faster, gave the band the first opportunity to stretch out, featuring Fish’s wailing guitar licks. Swapping guitars throughout the night from her white SG to a Jaguar and the cigar box slide, Fish was able to elicit a wide variety of tones and she applied the full kit of guitar tricks to her performance, from the way she uses her pick to a masterful control of feedback. Occasionally bending down to consult her pedalboard, Samantha was constantly searching for new and inspiring sounds to add even more colour to the mix.
Hello Stranger, a gorgeous soul number brought the mood down and showed just how diverse an artist Samantha is, not only with material choices but with vocal styles too. The song also gave keyboard player Matt Wade the opportunity to solo with some beautiful Rhodes sounds. A powerful Highway’s Holding Me Now took us back to her 2015 album Wild Heart, with Sarak Tomek on drums and Ron Johnson on bass proving to be a formidable rhythm section. She asks us if it’s ‘Memmo’ or ‘Meemo’ Music Hall? Good question!
During No Angels, the band took it down a notch to allow Samantha to noodle out a solo, building slowly, signalling the band back in, getting the crowd involved and transporting us all home in a burst of sound. Somebody Always Trying was even grander, with Matt Wade delivering the finest Hammond organ swirls and Samantha digging deep into her pedalboard for some otherworldly sounds. Then slinging on a Cole Clark guitar, Samantha gave us a splendid dose of acoustic slide, delta blues style.
Not only does Samantha Fish possess a charismatic stage presence, she also knows a thing or two about show dynamics, inviting the audience on an epic journey of feels, one minute taking us to rockin’ heights and bringing it all down the next in pursuit of our hearts. Dreamgirl delivered another of those moments, a steamy ballad, a hot night and we deliriously got caught up in the song’s beauty, as Samantha showcased her significant vocal range. Meanwhile Matt Wade laid down a sublime organ bed for Fish to paint a soulful solo over. This is why we love live music. A huge rendition of Black Wind Howlin ends and the band left the stage to a spirited standing ovation, forcing them to return soon after to administer one final shot of premium blues rock rhythms. She tells us she hopes to see us all again next time. That’s a promise we’re definitely making her keep.