Revolution Hall has become one of my favorite venues in Portland, Oregon for a number of reasons. First it’s easy to find, second it has plenty of cheap parking around back, third it has great acoustics and fourth there isn’t a bad seat in the entire house with a capacity of under a thousand. On Tuesday, September 24, 2019 the featured artist that I came to see was Samantha Fish who was opening for Louisiana blues rocker Marc Brousard.
The show started promptly at 8:00 pm as Samantha Fish and band took the stage by storm opening with “Bulletproof” from her new release Kill to be Kind, her sixth solo album and first on “Rounder Records.” She was using her four string “Stogie Box Blues cigar box” guitar that she’s been using since 2012 when she purchased it from a vendor in Helena, Arkansas when she played at the “King Biscuit Blues Festival.” She used a slide with it with it to create a throbbing, driving beat as she sang “I’d turn it on you, turn it on you, I’d turn it on you, but you’re bulletproof.” The intensity that the band played with mesmerized the crowd in the sold out auditorium.
“Kill to be Kind,” the title song off her new album was next as she picked up a white Gibson guitar and dove into the somewhat jazzier composition with a suggestive beat that she augmented with her soaring vocals like one of Odysseus’s sirens. While the rest of the band kept the song going she changed guitars once again, this time to a custom made “Delaney” but it didn’t matter which one she used she rocked out guitar pyrotechnics to the max on them all. She is an incredible performer with a stage presence and talent that exceeds the capacity of the venue. “Watch it Die” was also from the new album and Samantha told the crowd that they were doing selections from it since it was just released last Friday and would be available after the show.
Fish introduced the band made up of her on lead guitar and vocals, Phil Breen on keyboards, Chris Alexander on bass and Scott Graves on drums. Marc Brousard’s horn section comprised of Jimmie Reamie on trumpet and Jason Parfiat on alto sax also joined in for a portion of her set to expand the audio diversity. Eight of the ten songs performed were from Kill to be Kind and offered the opportunity for a continual flow of raging guitar driven tunes like “You Got It Bad.” “You got it bad, you got it bad, better than you ever had,” she rapturously sang. Drummer Scott Graves played with a red hot gusto that was as intense as the guitar solos that Samantha performed, with his mane of hair swirling around his head as he relentlessly flailed away on his drum kit. The tight interplay between band members exponentially expanded the sound that vibrated with raw passion as each song’s performance pulled out all the stops.
Songs like “Dirty” offered an opportunity for Phil Breen’s keyboards to shine as Samantha’s luscious voice alternated with her sonic guitar peals accompanied by Chris Alexander’s metronomically throbbing bass. The additional horn section raised the sound bar a notch higher as the band proceeded to raise the roof. Between songs she asked the crowd if they were having a good time and said “that’s all I care about.”
For the final song of Fish’s forty-five minutes she once again traded her Gibson for her cigar box four string to rock the house with “Crow Jane Blues” from her 2017 release Chills and Fever. The song was originally recorded by Julius Daniels during the 1920’s and later recorded by a series of blues artists including the Rev. Gary Davis and Skip James and is considered part of the Piedmont blues legacy. Samantha played the four string with a slide as she drove the band into a frenzy while she sang, “don’t you hold you head to high ‘cause, someday, babe, you know, you gotta die.” The song ended in a blazing flurry of exploding sound concluding with the band taking a bow and promptly leaving the stage without an encore to allow the stage crew to set up for Marc Brousard.
Review by Bob Gersztyn