“In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re a bigger band now,” Samantha Fishdeadpanned from the stage in between songs. For years, Fish made a name for herself churning out no-nonsense blues and rock with a tightly honed trio. Her new album Chills and Fever introduced a larger ensemble and a more polished soul sound. Last Friday’s show at the Highline Ballroom was the first chance for New Yorkers to see Fish’s new band in action. From the opening notes of the old Ronettes tune, “He Did It,” it was clear that a new band and a change in style hadn’t diminished any of Fish’s power and energy as a performer.
Fish has always been a top notch singer and guitarist – the Chills and Fever tour reveals her to be a formidable band leader as well. The six piece band, which included a keyboard player and two horns, was in the pocket all night. Tunes like “Either Way I Lose” and “Voodoo Working” featured muscular instrumental jams. Even when they slowed down the tempo, Fish and her band lost none of their power and chemistry. Ballads like “Hello Stranger,” “Hurt’s All Gone” and “Nearer to You,” showed how much Fish has grown as a vocalist. Mark Levron (trumpet) and Travis Blotsky (saxophone) provided beautiful accompaniment, purring and crooning like the Memphis Horns.
While much of the evening was devoted to material from Chills and Fever, long-time fans were pleased to hear several passionate readings of Fish’s earlier work. Full throttle renditions of “Runaway” and “Wild Heart” showed that Fish hasn’t lost any of her rock ‘n’ roll swagger. Fine acoustic guitar work on “Jim Lee Blues” and the scorching slide licks on “Crow Jane” reminded listeners that the blues will always be Fish’s first musical love. Samantha Fish poured her heart into every note, yet the evening’s performance felt like it was only the tip of the iceberg. She has grown tremendously as a musician in a few short years, and it feels like there’s a lot more music in her soul waiting to come out. It will be exciting to see where Fish’s career goes next.