Samantha Fish // Willie & The Bandits // Live Review // Shepherd’s Bush Empire // London
Samantha Fish is the kind of musician you won’t ever quite forget. I knew this even before I stepped foot in Shepherd’s Bush Empire on a mild October evening with the tender taste of anticipation tingling the tip of my tongue. Songwriter, vocalist and renowned guitarist, Fish not only embodies the entire entity of a rockstar on paper, she’s also carved her way to be one of the top formidable forces on the modern blues rock scene. With her latest album release ‘Faster’ coming out just over a year ago, it was well and truly time for the artist to bring her hot chops over to the UK and give her audience the live showcase of the material they now know so well.
Supporting Fish on tour was Wille and the Bandits. A sterling 45-minute set saw the quintet course their way through a set filled with sweet juicy root’s goodness. The band just released their 2022 studio record ‘When the World Stood Still’ (won’t take a genius to work out that title inspiration) and brought their absolute all to each number.
With broken drumsticks, hard-boiled sneers and an appetite for musical diversions between the powerful and the emotive, Wille and the Bandits proved themselves worthy of an eager and excitedly engaged audience. ‘Caught in the Middle’, ‘Solid Ground’, ‘Four Million Days’ and ‘Will We Ever’ were particular highlights as Wille dipped in and out of his musical prowess with the band as his more than a solid foundation.
Superb support. Keep an eye out for their headlining tour early next year. With an act like that tickets are bound to go quick and I for one will be most certainly there.
Bang on the 9.00 pm marker Samantha Fish takes to the stage. As the sound of MCR’s ‘Kick Out the Jams’ fades it’s on with the star and out with that signature cigar box guitar. Dressed in silk bell bottom trousers with a white leather jacket, styled neck tie scarf and obligatory suave heels, Fish is ever the unfailing vision of a rock ’n’ roll queen.
The show gets off to a hammer-and-nail start with hits Bulletproof (Tangle Eye Mix)’, ‘Better Be Lonely’ and ‘Twisted Ambition’. Fish and her band barely take a breath, gifting us with that opening 7-minute blues-laden ramp-up edition of ‘Bulletproof’. Getting the night started with such a vibrancy, a lesser person might wonder if the band could keep that high going all evening. But as I was starting to figure out, a Samantha Fish show isn’t one to slow or falter.
‘Hello Stranger’, another favourite taken from her orchestrally charged 2017 release ‘Chills & Fever’, is an easy blues schmoozer before Fish kicks it back up a notch with ‘Forever Together’, ‘Highway’s Holding Me Now’ and ‘Hypnotic’.
“How you doing ya’ll? I said, how you doing?!”
As Fish ditches the leather jacket and dives into her Americana twang ‘No Angels’ it’s every perfect husky pitchers dream. Comparative to her studio albums, Fish utilises every inch of her range in each vocal run, sending ripples of awe out across the crowd.
‘Faster’ heeds attitude, shaken out by Fish’s band with a stealthy swing. Her accompanists are as much of the show as she is and it’s clear the four of them have played this show together inside and out without ever tiring of their collective electric energy. Fish elongates her compositions with first-rate solo work that’s both beguiling and unsparing, pulling no punches with each sweep or slide. She’s phenomenal guitarist, conducting the people with every pick.
“Now I haven’t done this on this tour yet but I feel this is a special night and ya’ll are a special audience.”
And with that, the band leaves the stage as Fish picks up her poised acoustic. She covers Charley Patton’s ‘Jim Lee Blues’ before an emotionally charged rendition of her ‘Need You More’.
With the band back a highlight moment comes in the form of Neil Young’s ‘Don’t Let It Bring You Down’. Ever the procurer of good music taste, Fish switches back to her electric half way through the song in a triumphant crescendo moment which reels in the audience before they explode in a gratuitous applause.
From then on it’s a raging hit-turning blast for the last quarter of the show. ‘Bitch on the Run’, ‘So- Called Lover’ and ‘Dream Girl’ are suitably billed with more heart piercingly good solo work from Fish. ‘Black Wind Howlin’’ gloriously kneads out the final throw, combining a blues swagger with that rock out punch. With an ending like that, of course there was going to be an encore.
‘Shake ‘Em on Down,’ originally by Bukka White, is a master class in musicianship grandiose and the Empire shakes with a sound of bittersweet cheers for the finished performance.
Now let me tell you this. Samantha Fish is without a doubt one of the finest acts I have seen this year. In the world of blues it’s rare to find an act that dazzles in both guitar and vocals whilst also providing a crowd with a performance that’s spectacular in an unassumingly brilliant way. Talent may be everywhere but what Samantha Fish has shown us is that it’s best served up raw, with some damn good playing and that sweet Kansas charm.
BETTER BE LONELY
DON’T LET IT BRING YOU DOWN
BITCH ON THE RUN
SO CALLED LOVER ??? (time)
BLACK WIND HOWLIN