Author: Sal Serio
There are those certain nights, those special concert performances, when you’re catching an artist at just the right time in their career – when the media is all over it, the buzz is ablaze, critical acclaim is peaking, and yet the performer is still on the rise and you have that opportunity to see them up close and personal in a nightclub, rather than the nosebleed seats in an arena or halfway across the field at a festival. This was the blissful situation on Thursday, December 13, at the High Noon Saloon, when guitarist and singer Samantha Fish brought her band back to Madison for a show that fulfilled all audience anticipations and then some.
I’ll tell you what though, if attendance was any indication, the next time Samantha Fish comes back to town, it will be in a larger space… because the High Noon was pretty darn packed. It certainly helped that there was also plenty of buzz about the opener, Jonathon “Boogie” Long, who brought his Southern-fried Baton Rogue rock to the stage with a captivating set that ignited the fuse on the evening’s festivities. The appeal of Long’s dapper black cowboy hat and “Flying Burrito Brothers” style jacket was only matched by his impeccable songcraft and dexterity on the fretboard of his constant companion bearing the name of Gibson.
After a short break and challenging maneuvers to score drinks at the bar and find desirable proximity to the stage, the woman of the hour came out red-hot with her fantastic 6-piece backing band. Dressed in a skintight leopard-skin mini-dress and wielding a white Gibson SG, Samantha Fish wasted no time engaging the hungry audience with “American Dream”, the opening song on her latest CD “Belle Of The West”, which immediately segued in to the title track of “Chills And Fever”, her other album from 2017. In fact, all but 3 of the songs Fish performed during her 19 song set came from these two most recent releases. Fish is both an outrageously impressive vocalist, at times striking comparisons to Amy Winehouse, but then she leans into a guitar solo so hard it seems like you should smell smoke and sulfur in the air… those leads are just that hot.
Speaking of guitars, Ms. Fish had quite the arsenal on hand, with no less than six axes at the ready in a rack right behind her at center stage, typically favoring the white SG or a fancy looking woodgrain semi-hollow body, and an acoustic on a couple of numbers. In fact, on the new song “Daughters”, Fish started out on acoustic for the more delicate folky intro to the song, then quickly switched back to the SG for the scorching bluesy soloing at the end. Another cool aspect of this instrumental passage was the interplay between the lead guitar and the ethereal violin by Rebecca Crenshaw.
There were many highlights in this nice long set for me… the upbeat danceable rock of “You Can’t Go”, the Stone-sy or maybe Lucinda Williams-ish swagger of “Cowtown”, the crazy effects-ridden guitar jam at the end of “Somebody’s Always Trying”, and the cigar-box slide guitar of “Crow Jane”. There were just so many peaks in the evening’s musical journey, balanced out by a few quiet and more soulful moments to give us a moment’s reprieve to catch our breath again. In the 3 song encore set, Jonathon Long joined in for “The River”, a collaboration he did with Samantha on his new self-titled album. This was followed by an emotional reading of the Junior Kimbrough song “I’m In Love”, and then the final epic rocker was “Bitch On The Run”, with Long and Fish trading off vocals and lethal guitar runs until it seemed that everyone in the room, audience and performers alike, were about ready to collapse from sheer exhaustion.
One can only speculate what’s next for Samantha Fish, but she’s hinted in interviews that there are new songs in the works for another recording, and I would guess that more concert dates would follow. It’s obvious how much she loves performing and feeding off the energy of the live concert audiences. No doubt we here in Madison will welcome back her return with much fanfare and open arms.