Chills and Fever: Samantha Fish Live at The Neighborhood Theatre
The Red Hot Chili Peppers show at Spectrum Center might have been the biggest show of the week in Charlotte, but the Samantha Fish show at The Neighborhood Theatre in NoDa was definitely the best show of the week. Delivering a phenomenal set of songs that ranged from 60s R&B to 2010s blues rock to pure Americana, Fish proved that a singer, her guitar, her band, and the perfect venue can be all that is necessary to make live music dreams come true regardless of the size of the show.
Fish herself looked like something out of a dream when she walked on stage with her new(ish) short hair do and semi-retro outfit. For all the world she looks like the girl who sat in front of you in high school that you had an almost unbearable crush on, but were too shy to approach. Fish is so much more than her looks though. So much more. With a repertoire of blues songs that, as shown on her 2015 LP titled Wild Heart, trend toward bluesy hard rock, Fish has staked a claim to blues guitar and vocals stardom by bringing something fresh to the well-tread genre with her youthful enthusiasm, fearless playing style, and bold lyrics.
Then, she turned it all on its head with Chills and Fever, her 2017 album of slightly obscure cover songs that added the aforementioned 60s R&B aspect to her music and revealed the soul within her voice and guitar playing. With a full band on the album (The Detroit Cobras), that included a trumpet and sax section, Fish breathed new life into old songs like Barbara Lewis’ “Hello Stranger,” and Ronnie Love’s “Chills and Fever” by staying true to the originals, but adding her trademark guitar playing to both. Neither song, when played live though, lent themselves to the extended, and nigh inimitable, soloing which Fish is a master of. That was reserved for fan favorites like “Bitch on the Run” and “Black Howlin’ Wind.” What they did do though, as part of her set at The Neighborhood Theatre, was add a new element of sultry R&B and fun pop rock sensibility that meshed perfectly with an already all encompassing guitar rock and blues ensemble of songs. Fish is expanding beyond just being a solid blues centric musician and singer. She is branching out to include the types of soulful songs that spotlight her singing just as powerfully as her playing.
While Fish didn’t kick off her shoes, as she has a penchant for doing later on in her shows, she did kick out the aforementioned older songs that featured some extended soloing, and it wouldn’t have been a Samantha Fish show without it. This night’s highlight came not during one of those oldies, ironically enough, but during her version of “Either Way I Lose” off of Chills and Fever. Fish coaxed notes out of the song that didn’t make it onto the album and can only be fully appreciated by hearing and seeing it performed live. Mesmerizing the crowd into a dazed lull that swayed with her every move and note, Fish found the type of emotional depth, and subsequent heft, that only the most soulful and accomplished blues women can, while she played some of her most inspired solos of the night. It was the moment, undoubtedly recreated every night of this tour, when Samantha Fish graduated from that high school/freshman year crush into an accomplished artist talented beyond what she should be allowed to be at this point in her career.
I suspect that Samantha Fish will always transcend what she “should be” at any point in her long and fruitful career. Displaying a range of vocal, instrumental, and soulful talent that really is only seen once in a generation as far as the blues, rock, and soul are concerned. Fish is already one of a kind, and her live show is a must see event akin to the earliest White Stripes or Black Keys shows. Those lucky enough to be at The Neighborhood Theatre in NoDa to catch her performance will fondly look back on it as one the best shows of their concert going days.
Chills and Fever by Samantha Fish for Ruf Records is available now.